Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Lumber Grain, Part 1
Can you believe it's almost August? Summer is half gone. Pretty soon, the kids will be back in school, the grass will stop growing, the weather will get cooler, and we can spend our "free" time woodworking. And that means we'll be out in force buying lumber.

With that in mind, I thought I'd take a couple of weeks here to review the types of lumber, flat sawn, riftsawn, and quartersawn. What do the names mean, and how do you tell them apart, and why should you care?

The key to telling the difference is "reading" the end of the board. What you're looking for is the angle of the growth rings. This angle is determined by how the lumber was cut from the log.

FLATSAWN. On flatsawn lumber, the rings will be 30 degrees (or less) to the face of the board. In many cases, especially with boards coming from large diameter logs, the rings will be parallel to the face.

Flatsawn lumber is the most common type of lumber you'll come across because a log yields the most lumber when it's cut this way. Because of this, it's the least expensive cut available.

But flatsawn lumber tends to move a lot with changes in humidity -- it often cups or warps. And the grain swirls in many directions over the face of the board. When this wild-grained wood is stained, the softer more porous early wood will soak up more stain and look darker than the harder, less porous late wood.

Go to Tip# 19: Riftsawn lumber.
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