There are various techniques for sawing trees into usable lumber, and one of them is quarter-sawn lumber. Unlike a direct translation, this method of milling trees creates highly usable and sturdy planks with minimal waste compared to traditional lengthwise sawing. Quarter-sawn wood is particularly ideal for oak and maple, as the exposed grain in the wood plays a significant role in its application for projects. Rip sawing, the most common method used in lumber production, maximizes the utilization of every part of the tree to create usable planks. However, this method aligns the chips with the center of the tree, resulting in a grain that runs along the length of the wood. On the other hand, quarter sawing strikes a balance between efficiency and usability, requiring more time and effort while utilizing a larger portion of the tree.
What are the Advantages of Quarter-Sawn Lumber?
In essence, the advantage of quarter-sawn lumber lies in its structural properties. The hardest woods are lengthwise sawn, aligning all planks with the center of the tree. This creates a grain that runs along the length of the wood, enabling expansion only in that direction. Quarter sawing provides a compromise, requiring more effort but utilizing a larger quantity of the tree’s available wood. However, due to the increased difficulty of the cutting process, more scrap is produced, resulting in quarter-sawn lumber usually being more expensive than regular-sawn lumber.
How to Identify Quarter-Sawn Lumber or Planks
Quarter-sawn lumber typically exhibits nearly parallel grain lines that span the shorter dimension of the board. This characteristic arises from cutting the planks according to the grain of the tree. In contrast, live-sawn timber produces soft, rough curves across the width of each plank.
The Benefits of Quartersawn Wood
In a nutshell, the benefits of quarter-sawn lumber are its appearance and stability. The consistent grain of quarter-sawn lumber results in a more stable end product. The endgrain of the wood is essentially perpendicular to the surface of the plank, minimizing distortion and “cupping.”
Ever noticed wood on a deck warping or bending? As quarter-sawn wood dries, it becomes less prone to warping or assuming odd shapes. This enhanced stability is a significant advantage.
Now, let’s consider oak or maple. Quartersawn oak played a vital role in the Decorative style of the American Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 1900s. Sometimes, cheap ash is stained to resemble oak, but it lacks the inherent ray flakes of quarter sawn oak. The richness of the grain in oak speaks for itself, featuring visible ray spots that become less noticeable or even disappear when the oak is sawn.
How Do You Obtain Quartersawn Wood from Trees?
So, how do you obtain quarter-sawn logs from trees? It’s not magic, although it might seem that way! While different factories may employ slightly varied methods, the name itself aptly describes the process. Quarter-sawn timber is cut into quarters before being processed in the sawmill. The cut is made with the “point” at the top, resulting in slices where the grain is essentially perpendicular to the surface. The widest lumber is obtained from the center of the quarters, arranging the wood particles into a tighter pattern and providing a unique and consistent appearance.
Expansion and Contraction
Understanding how quarter-sawn timber expands and contracts in response to moisture and humidity is crucial compared to regular or plain sawn timber. All wood experiences some degree of movement. However, quarter-sawn lumber has the advantage of expanding and contracting along the width of the board rather than its height. Furthermore, quarter-sawn lumber rarely twists or bows, making it particularly useful for sturdy boards, cabinets, and other applications where such deformation is undesirable or problematic.
Why Does This Matter?
To be honest, if you’re shopping for lumber at your local home improvement store, you’ll most likely encounter plain-sawn lumber. Quarter-sawn lumber is typically sourced from specialized sawmills that employ this cutting method. Since the manufacturing process yields less usable wood compared to traditional sawing methods, the costs are higher. Additionally, cutting quarter-sawn lumber requires more effort at the mill. Consequently, the supply may be limited, with only a handful of sawmills in your area producing it.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about quarter-sawn lumber or share your thoughts on? Feel free to leave a comment below.