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What is "Quarter Sawn"

Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 3:04 pm
by cdnikoloff
I would like to know what "quarter sawn" means. I am guessing it is a particular way wood is cut. But how can you tell quarter sawn wood from wood that is not? Pictures would be great.


Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 3:54 pm
by kec01
Carole, I'll do the best I can. Picture a round log and you know how when you look at it, you can see lots of rings depending on the age of the tree. Regular sawing just starts at the top of the log and cuts down a number of times to make a pile of boards. Cut this way, when you look at the board you only get a view of a small part of the grain because the growth ring is in the wide part of the board. It's hard to describe but if you can picture these types of cuts, you'll be able to "see" that you don't get much detail of the wood's grain.

Quarter sawn takes that original log and cuts in crosswise into 4 pieces, like you'd cut a pie into 4 pieces. Then each piece is sawn, cutting 1 of the flat surfaces and alternating back and forth between the 2 flat surfaces. This proceeds through each of the 4 pieces of the original log.
This way you get all the "rings" of grain on ea. board.

http://www.stuarts.net/Stuwritup/quarte ... ersawn.htm - this link has a good description and pictures. HOpe this helps.

Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 4:06 pm
by cdnikoloff

Thank you!!!!! Great discription.

Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 7:00 pm
by vito1966
Not that I am a Sawyer, or even a Tom, but I have heard that quarter sawn oak is a by product of milling.

I too would, love to see the difference in grain pattern

Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 7:12 pm
by thouser
Even in standard practice log cutting there will naturally be some quarter sawn boards which are pulled and sold as premium. Now days there are ways of log cutting that yield mostly quartered, some rift and some flat sawn. The big advantage with quartered material is that the board will expand/contract less in it's width and is more stable with less stress therefore likely to stay flat.

A person who never made a mistake
never tried anything new.
A. Einstein

Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 7:26 pm
by vito1966
A craftsman without the ability to correct his mistakes, is a craftsman without ability.


Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 8:29 pm
by thouser
Well I hope this works

Flat sawn oak white

Quarter sawn oak white

Sorry I just didn't feel like going out to the shop and taking pictures

Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 8:45 pm
by BobG
Quartersawn, rift sawn, and plain sawn or flat sawn all have to do with the way the wood is cut in relation to the grain, as thouser mentioned.

quartersawn is cut perpendicular to the growth rings. when you look at a quartersawn board end-on, you will see that the growth rings go straight up from bottom to top. In species such as oak, this yields a straight grain on the surface of the board with flecks all over the board. Tiger oak is quartersawn. the flecks are the light spots that run across the grain.

rift sawn is when the grain appears at a 45 degree angle when you view the board end-on. rift sawn yields a straight grain with little to no flecks. both quartersawn and rift sawn are very dimensionally stable over a range of temperature and humidities that make them excellent materials for flooring.

plain or flat sawn is when the grain is roughly parallel to the surface. this yields the pretty "flame" type of grain that you see in most modern oak pieces. The problem with plain sawn is that as the boards absorb moisture from the enviornment, they can start cupping or bowing. This will be exaggerated with wider boards. one way to reduce the chance or magnitude of the cupping is to limit the width of the boards to no more than about 6 inches.

frank miller lumber http://www.frankmiller.com has a nice brochure on the quartersawing process, and it shows the end-on view of both quarter and rift sawn lumber.


Quarter Sawn

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 8:22 am
by James
You have gotten very good descriptions of the process and the results. All I can say is that I live with it all every day. My house has downstairs floors that are apparently quarter sawn, You get very little visible grain, the graining is all nice and tight growth ring lines. The walls are pine planks, never painted. But because they were cut intending to go on the walls, old Mr. Porter who built this place saved money, not weight bearing so way pay for the more expensive quarter sawing. They are flat sawn, with that exaggerated grain pater showing that Bob mentioned. One of the things most people mention when they see this place cause it is all over the walls here. But back when it was done it just meant they were saving money on the walls cause it was not weight bearing. Also did it unfortunately with the upstairs floor, money was tight I guess and those being bedrooms were not going to be seen as much by guests or have to stand up to the same level of traffic. What survives of the exterior 18th century weatherboards also appear to have been quarter sawn, as they would have needed to be to help the boards hold up to the elements better.

Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 3:27 am
by BobG
Oddly enough, the man who built our home, who owned a lumberyard, used plain sawn poplar for the clapboards ... go figure ...

Upstairs trim is all rift and plain sawn douglas fir, but originally shellacked, not painted ...

some of my baseboards have cupped.

you can see where they closed in the upstairs porch to make the master bathroom in the 30's. they used rift and plain sawn oak to fill in the floor .... all of the plain sawn boards have cupped over the years... the quartered and rift is still nice and flat ...

I'll try to take some pics to help illustrate.... I was out of town this week (in kennesaw, ga for business), so I'll see what I can rustle up this weekend ...