Sawing Options ‹ LaCrosse Flooring

When flooring mills & manufacturers mill lumber into flooring their is basically 3 ways in which they can run the timbers through their saw mills; Plain sawing, Rift Sawing, & Quarter Sawing. I will also note that the center cut of plainsawn wood is also a quartersawn piece. However, it also produces the most waste, which will cost more per board foot than either quarter sawn and plain sawn lumber. Plain saw is when a timber is turned after each cut and in the end you have a cant left. The two faces will show very straight grain lines, but the edges will show flatsawn grain patterns.

Is this for a tonal reason or do you just get less waste from the tree w/ flat sawn cuts. To establish stiffness a piece of wood of a certain cross section and length is supported at one end and a weight is placed on the other end. Today plain sawn is the most common due to its classic look and utilization of most of the log. I wouldn’t spend the wod for a quarter sawn neck expecting it to radically alter your tone, pickups would be a much more substantial tone change then adding a quarter sawn neck. You get the same nice look you get with quartersawn wood and not the different flatsawn look. Similar to quarter sawn lumber, rift sawn lumber is also referred to as radial grain.

Many wood species have numerous varieties (with varying colors, density, etc.), and in these cases it becomes hard to say exactly which species a sample might be. Expert woodworkers will identify a species by it’s weight, color, smell, and how it works” (how his/her tools interact with the wood). Tension is always released when you saw a board and the funkier” the grain the more tension the board will have.

On high-end acoustic, electric and bass guitars quartersawn wood is often used as the base material for the neck of the guitar, since this makes for a stronger and straighter neck which aids tuning and setup stability. Each quarter is then sawn with the growth rings at 30 to 60 degree angles to the board surface. I’m guessing about that – don’t know why they’d bother with quarter sawn bodies on a cheaper model.

When you combine a larger yield of lumber with faster milling times, you also end up with a more affordable piece of lumber. If you have the whole tree cut like this you have your choice of cuts when using it. This is ideal for furniture making becuase you can get any desired grain effect to match the shape or style of your piece. Plain sawn, also commonly called flat sawn, is the most common lumber you will find.

Quartersawn wood is less susceptible to wear, shrinking, swelling in width, twisting, warping and splitting. The sawyer begins by sawing several boards from one side of the log, turns it 90 degrees and saws several more, and continues in this manner sawing around” the log. Quarter sawn wood has an amazing straight grain pattern that lends itself to design.

Rift sawing produces a virtually straight grain appearance on the face of the board with little to no visible flake”. The misconception comes in thinking that wider spaced grain lines mean that the tree is younger that one with tighter spaced grain lines and this is simply not true. It is popular for projects that need the extra wood stability (see article on wood movement for more information).

I should add that there is a commercial kiln operation not far from me and when I buy from him, his lumber is 6%. I usually have to let the wood sit a few weeks and when I check it, it comes back to around 8%. The main reason that recent BR guitars use flat sawn wood is because of the small size of the trees. To mill quarter sawn wood, each log is sawed at a radial angle into four quarters.


In other words, as much as I like vertical grain wood for most things, the evidence points to flat grain in a neck being just as good, and with cherry being as stable as it is, I think it would be fine. Woods with large pores that are easily visible to the naked eye are said to have an open grain Those with smaller pores, to small to see clearly, have a closed grain Open-grain woods appear coarser than closed-grain woods because the surface isn’t as smooth.

I’ve taken processed wood samples to expert collectors, and I’ve learned that even these specialist can be stymied. Quartersawn boards can also be produced by cutting a board from one flat face of the quarter, flipping the wedge onto the other flat face to cut the next board, and so on. This gives quartersawn wood the straightest grain, which also makes it more stable.

In high-end string instruments, the neck and fretboards can be made from quartersawn wood since they must remain stable throughout the life of the instrument, to keep the tone as invariable as possible. I believe you stated that quarter sawn lumber will only change dimension (due to changes in moisture content) in thickness, not width. In the diagram you can see that this can cause cupping or other distortions as the wood swells and shrinks with changes in humidity.

Usually, this problem arises when lumber is moved from a non climate-controlled environment (like a garage or barn) into a dry, climate-controlled shop, so the top of the panels will shrink and the lumber will cup up and away from the table as it dries. Cut it parallel to the grain direction but through the radius of the growth rings to see quarter grain (also referred to as radial grain). In this method, the log actually is cut into quarters, then sawn quarter by quarter. You can see that the center parts of plain sawn wood are the same as quartersawn.

Live sawn graining combines the look of plain sawn, rift & quartered, while French cut is live sawn with less plain sawn. Oftentimes these pores must be filled before the wood is finished so the finish will dry to a smooth, flat surface. The art of sawing quarter, rift and flat grain boards is one of the most creative and exciting parts of my job. Rift cut for violin tops there would be excessive waste of the trunk whereas it could be a desirable cut for wood flooring. Notice how there is enough wood for a lot of slab boards even of a certain width.

The growth rings are perpendicular to the board’s broad face, producing a vertical and uniform grain pattern. Every piece in this first diagram has the rings at 90 degrees so every piece is 100% quarter sawn and is not even close to rift sawn. It is also a popular way to cut veneer and is great for book matching (laying matching grain patterns side by side to repeat and mirror the grain). Eventually, you will get a feel for how long it takes and end up with a flat panel, and now a drier panel (both good things).

Rift and quartered lumber, although sawn slightly differently, are usually manufactured together as compliments of one another. Because it is more difficult to cut than plain-sawn wood and yields less product, quarter-sawn wood is also more expensive than plain-sawn lumber. When you’re looking at the end of a flat grain board that is laying down, the grain runs in the horizontal direction.

I have not done it with a lateral strip yet but I think the flat-sawn will be stronger since the QS strip will break easily at a grain line. Most mills pull quartered sawn from their normal plain sawing production, resulting in very inconsistent colors and grain patterns. Quartered White Oak exhibits pronounced Medullary Ray or Ray Fleck, which becomes even more pronounced when the wood is finished. That is the only way to definitively determine any change in response or tone based on how the lumber is milled, but that is not possible. Despite the attractive look on the surface, there are certain drawbacks to plain sawn lumber.

I have been doing some reading about this and there doesn’t seem to be much data to support the stiffness of quarter-sawn vs. flat sawn. Also, flooring without a grain designation may contain any combination of the types of grain classification: Plain Sawn, Rift Sawn, and Quarter Sawn. The grain of plain-sawn lumber is defined by the circular rings of the lumber, which create a cathedral pattern. The grain patterns of wooden boards can affect the way that they expand and contract. Thus it is important to store new lumber in the workshop for a week or two before beginning to work it. This time allows the lumber to adjust to the humidity level there.

But if the top tries to shrink, expand, or warp – with the bridge bearing down on it – the wood is doubly stressed and may crack. When discussing processed wood and lumber, it’s necessary to understand which surface of the wood is being referred to. Working within the scope of growth rings already discussed, and their orientation within the tree’s trunk, there are three primary planes, or surfaces, that are encountered in processed wood. The best way to get wood for guitar building is to buy large pieces and mill it yourself. Wood harvested this way falls into one of three groups: flatsawn, riftsawn, and quartersawn.