examples of wood sawing styles

What do you think of when you hear about wood grains? Most likely the image that comes to mind is of a plank with many darkened, oval rings circling around each other. This type of wood panel is known by several names, including traditional, plain sawn, and flat sawn. Traditional wood panels frequent many a boat interior, woodie wagons, and classically stylish kitchens like that of Elvis Presley’s Graceland. In addition to the timeless plain sawn cut, there are two cuts of oak that have risen to popularity lately: quarter sawn oak and rift sawn oak. These sawing patterns can make the same species, like white oak, look totally different from one cabinet panel to the next.

What is “quarter sawn”? What is “rift sawn”?

The traditional style of sawing up a wood log into panels consists of running a log through a saw and cutting the wood into plain, flat planks. This is the most utilitarian way to saw wood, as every part is used when the log is cut lengthwise into straight-across planks. When the log ring is cut lengthwise, it creates those long oval “cathedrals” and the thicker pattern we associate with a traditional wood grain. 

Quarter sawn oak consists of cutting the log into four quarters and setting each through a wood saw, where each quarter is met with diagonal slices. This method doesn’t create much waste, either, but produces a more variable pattern that can bring out some medullary rays or vertical striping, and worm tracks. 

A rift sawn wood grain, also called straight grain, is likewise cut into quarters before being run through the saw. The planks are cut at an angle 30 to 60 degrees to the inner edge. This cutting style creates a very fine wood grain with tight vertical grains.

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Functional Differences Between the Types

Lovers of white oak will be pleased to learn that Cabinet Joint offers each both quartersawn white oak and rift sawn white oak, plus red oak in flat sawn and quarter sawn panels. These species vary visually because the red oak can provide a pink tinge that comes through more with certain stain options. Flat sawn and rift sawn panels take stain with the most consistency, whereas the wood grain of quarter sawn panels can take stain imperfectly, especially darker stains, due to the high variability in medullary rays and worm tracks from one panel to the next. 

Despite being able to accommodate and customize white oak face frames and panels to the customer’s preference, the cabinet box itself cannot be made out of white oak. This is the case for many of the special species Cabinet Joint offers, though side skins of quarter inch wood panels are supplied to cover the sides of the cabinet box. As rift sawn white oak is not offered in quarter inch thick panels, orders of our rift sawn cabinets come with quarter sawn end skins.

Check out this Cabinet Joint video where Brian further explains and illustrates the differences between these different sawing patterns

Brian talks about the difference between sawing styles.

Are there any price differences?

To produce quarter sawn and rift sawn styles requires more know-how, effort, and finesse than that of the traditional flat sawn. This increase in effort increases time and consequently ups the costs to produce each of these. The aforementioned plain or flat sawn cuts have been described as utilitarian– in part, this is because nearly every cut from the lumber can be put to use. Quarter sawn styles create more scrap when produced, and rift sawn creates the most scrapwood due to the particular angles needed for the desired woodgrain. Rift sawn woodgrains are the most expensive of these three varieties due to the meticulous cutting pattern and the increased amount of lumber required to produce the same amount of panels.

In conclusion

The styles that come into popularity can be brief or long-lasting. Who would have thought leg warmers would return to the mainstream? Who could have guessed that ugly Christmas sweaters would become a timeless staple? What matters most is showcasing the style that resonates with you, because it’s your house and you are the one who will be looking at it everyday! Besides, with the quality Cabinet Joint delivers, you’re going to want to pick something you’ll be happy to look at for a long, long time.

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