Quarter Sawn lumber possess advantages over plain sawn lumber because of the orientation of the growth rings. However, if your concerned about neck stability like traveling between humid and dry areas, or live in a dry climate and having frets pop up on the neck or having to redress and file down sharp frets on the neck from seasonal changes occasionally then you might add those issues with the desire to have a sharper attack and decide to spring extra for a quarter sawn neck.
Because the majority of McClure’s handcrafted shuffleboard tables and butcher block furniture are made up of planks glued up face-to-face, many of the products utilize plain-sawn lumber to save cost for our customers while still offering superior stability and a variety of vibrant grain patterns after the glue up. However, McClure’s expert woodworkers have experience working with all three cuts of lumber, and can build any product with a particular cut upon request.
Flat sawn wood (especially oak) will often display a prominent wavy grain (sometimes called a cathedral-window pattern) caused by the saw cutting at a tangent to a growth ring; since in quartersawn wood the saw cuts across the growth rings, the visible grain is much straighter; it is this evenness of the grain that gives quartersawn wood its greater stability.
If you are buying Cedar from a local mill or lumber store, the wood will be plain sawn. At the Ledyard sawmill, we typically use a sawing method that is variously called through and through, flat, or plain sawing. The technique of rift sawing is very similar to that of quarter sawing producing similar limitations and advantages. Quarter sawing produces less board feet per log than plain sawing and is therefore more expensive. Rift Sawn Advantages: Produces the strongest possible boards with the most consistent visual look of long and straight grain patterns. With plain sawn material the log is cut vertically as shown in the pictures above and below.
The most common method is to simply cut the log down its length tangentially to the grain. 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). But these problems are not present with Rift and Quarter sawn flooring by the nature of the milling. The final picture is again labeled incorrectly, as the wider pieces are quarter sawn but the narrower ones are rift. It is common to expect that the face of a board or plank is where you will find the end grain.
The annular rings of a quarter sawn board are about 60-90 degrees to the face of the board; this is often referred to as radial grain. The difference between heartwood and sapwood is great; some manufacturers steam the wood to bleed the darker heartwood colour into the sapwood. Tangential cutting occurs when the saw cut glances on the outside of growth cylinder in the wood. Plain sawn, also commonly called flat sawn, is the most common lumber you will find.
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). And the expansion and contraction of wood is different depending on grain orientation, which may be a factor. The Flat sawn neck tends to have a more mellow tone and is more pliable so it is better for use with vintage style, single acting truss rods and does very well with a hard finish but can also be left unfinished as well. I have plenty of quartersawn lumber though just as a by-product of through-and-through sawing (the center of the log boards).
Some manufacturers steam lumber to bleed the darker heartwood colour into the sapwood, resulting in a more uniform colour. Premium Grade has overall consistent coloring with a minimal amount of wood tone variation and minimal sound character marks that blend in with overall tone. Here cross grain stiffness is a factor, and quartersawn wood is typically much stiffer cross grain than is flatsawn wood.
However, oak is (or at least was) often desired as quarter sawn – giving very interesting flecking” of the wood grain. Plain sawn boards are the least expensive of the three cuts as they are the least labor-intensive to produce and leave the least waste. Quarter sawn lumber creates more log waste and therefore the end result is narrower boards in relation the plain sawn technique. At the sawmill, plain sawn lumber is cut into parallel planks through the center of the tree.
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 grain that runs the length of the board will be parallel as well but not near as exact as it would be with quarter. Rift sawn boards are manufactured by milling perpendicular to the log’s growth rings producing a linear grain with no flecking. These consist of small capillaries inside the wood that run from the center of the tree to the outer growth ring.
For reasons other than cost, most people prefer quarter-sawn wood, although some people favor the variety in figuring produced in plain sawing. Quarter sawing produces relatively narrow boards, nearly all vertical-grained, and creates more waste, making quarter sawn lumber more expensive than plain-sawn. The weight of water contained in wood expressed as a percentage of the weight of the oven dry wood.
Rift sawing is the most expensive and rare of the milling methods, though sometimes it is mistaken for quarter sawn boards as they are commonly milled as a compliment to a quarter sawn floor. Because changes in the wood aren’t distributed across as many boards, the movement may appear exaggerated. Figure: The pattern produced in a wood surface by annual growth rings, rays, knots, and deviations from regular grain.
As a forester I am familiar with the different sawing patterns, but finding pics of what walnut looked like it was problematic for me. I am used to the oaks and maple – rift, quarter sawn, and plain. All in all, this is entirely subjective and the only way to prove it would be to flatsaw and quartersaw the exact same piece of wood and compare it to itself. The second advantage of quartersawn wood is the decorative pattern on the board, although this depends on the timber species. Being quarter sawn probably added to the mill expense but helped cut down the need for grain filler.
Nobody wants crevices and cracks the creepy crawlies can come in. There are three types of wood cuts. Even a few hours, and definitely a few days, of exposure of the untreated wood to UV rays will cause it to yellow. Despite the attractive look on the surface, there are certain drawbacks to plain sawn lumber. The wood is beautiful when cut this way, as you can see from the picture of the quarter sawn floor.
Due to its strength and stability, the quarter sawn is a great wood for use with heavier string gauges, unfinished necks, necks with a stronger dual acting truss rod, and longer necks like bass necks etc. Also, flooring without a grain designation may contain any combination of the types of grain classification: Plain Sawn, Rift Sawn, and Quarter Sawn.
The diagram at left shows two different methods of cutting quarter sawn boards, which are highlighted. Which is not to say that a mast made with plain sawn stock won’t be just fine, the actual difference being negligible in most cases. Really, the grain is very boring to look at. A fancy les paul with clearcoat and a really nice grain pattern is not quarter sawn.
Quarter and Rift sawn hardwood costs more due to the highest rate of log waste during manufacturing process (only approximately 20%of the log can be utilized for quarter sawn hardwood production). This article will highlight the various sawing methods that create many flooring options even with the same species of tree. This makes it easier to match boards for grain and color when the wood is ready to work.