Wood use probably began with fallen tree branches/limbs tied together
with animal sinew or hide strips. Then some bright neo-wrecker thought
the branches used inside would look different (even better) if the bark
were stripped off. Then scraping the wood with a rock produced a
smoother surface. Then wiping crushed berries over the stripped branch
produced "colored" wood. And on . . . and on . . . and on . . .
I'd suggest it has all been a steady progress towards the general
"beautification" of mankind's surroundings and possessions. Shiny
objects attract the eye and are often considered to have a certain
aesthetic quality whereas dull objects are usually considered to be
utilitarian. (Gross generalization, I know.)
You've swung at the wrong nail. The reason for shiny is that it is the
natural result of reflection from a flat surface. It's the flat surface
that we want, and we want, where the incident light doesn't reflect back
into our faces and shine, to look right through the finish with minimum
interference. That's what "pops" the grain, the lack of interference and
light scatter, which, of course, are not possible without a smooth surface.
Of course, it has been a practice in furniture-making for centuries to
polish the most visible surface and neglect the others by merely protecting
them. After all, they aren't in the same plane, and would never "shine"
simultaneously with the same light source.
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