wood grain

Differences to Know When Designing With Quarter Sawn Hardwood

Quarter sawn hardwoods are beautiful and distinctive. The unique look of quarter sawn hardwoods lend itself to an array of design styles, from traditional to modern.

But, when designing with solid quarter sawn hardwoods, it is important to understand how the uniqueness of this wood comes with a limitation in product width.

Why Is Quarter Sawn Lumber Narrow?

In order to obtain the distinctive straight-grained appearance of quarter sawn lumber, logs must be sawn in a different way. The log is first cut in half and then into halves again. After being cut into quarters, each quarter section is placed on the mill in a position so that the annual rings are as close to 90 degrees (perpendicular) to the face of each board as possible when sawn.

By sawing the log in this way, quarter sawn lumber yields more waste and therefore the end result is narrower boards, in comparison to plain sawn lumber sawing methods.

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Why is Quarter Sawn Hardwood More Expensive?

Quarter sawn hardwood can command a premium over plain sawn lumber. This is primarily due to a more limited availability of quarter sawn lumber – both because of the lower number of boards made from each log and combined with a much smaller number of suppliers producing this kind of lumber. This limited availability of quarter sawn lumber results in a premium price for this type of lumber.

Is Quarter Sawn Hardwood Worth It?

The principal benefit of the quarter-sawing technique is that all of the grain will be straight, resulting in a more dimensionally stable product. Quarter sawn lumber typically does not warp, twist, or cup. A narrow grain pattern is typically evident on the face of the board. Flecks are generally evident in quarter sawn red oak and white oak, but can also be seen in other species. Read more about quarter sawn wood.

Is Quarter Sawn Wood Still A Green Choice?

Many have asked whether the higher waste involved in making quarter sawn wood result in a product that is less environmentally friendly than traditional lumber. The answer is simple – quarter sawn wood is a sound environmental choice. (Read more on why solid wood is a great design choice for our environment.) Companies who produce quarter sawn lumber use the rest of the log in a variety of ways. Bark can be turned into mulch and wood chips supply paper companies, while sawdust is often used on-site to fuel drying kilns. No part of the log is left unused.

Basics of Hardwood Finishing: Part One

Finishing wood allows you to showcase the uniqueness of the wood you are using for a project. As you know, finishing can make or break a project.  Hardwood products are finished to enhance or alter the natural beauty of the wood, and to protect the wood from damage by moisture and handling. A quality finish must offer acceptable performance and also meet the project’s aesthetic requirements. A good finish prevents swelling and cracking, protects against stains and enhances the appearance of the wood.

Before finish ever comes in contact with wood, there is a great deal of preparatory work to be done.

PREPARE THE SURFACE PROPERLY  It should go without saying that almost no coating or finish can overcome a poorly prepared surface.  Prepare the surface with the desired finish result in mind. If an extra smooth surface is specified, then sanding, grain filling, and defect filling of some sort is indicated. The best finish cannot overcome an ill prepared surface.SandingWood

KNOW YOUR WOOD and how it accepts stain. Unlike metal or plastic surfaces, wood presents a substrate that varies in density, porosity, and stability. Not sure? Check our species guide for guidance. Some woods like hard maple and poplar have a tendency to stain unevenly and blotch. For those woods it is recommended you use a wood conditioner before applying any stain. Other woods readily accept stain and have to be carefully wiped off almost immediately after application.

DETERMINE THE TYPE OF FINISH   Although at least 10 varieties and more than a dozen brands of finish are available, all can be divided into two categories: penetrating finishes (those that dry inside the wood) and surface finishes (those that dry on the surface of the wood). Penetrating finishes are easier to apply and leave a more natural look. Surface finishes are more durable but don’t look as natural. Determine the look you want for your final piece and identify the finish that works the best for that application.

In our next blog – determining the right finishing process for you.

Wood Grain and Wood Strength

Why is the direction of wood grain important when building with wood? Wood is a natural substance that is much stronger when the grain is continuous. Wood is a natural polymer. That is, it consists of parallel strands of cellulose fibers held together by a lignin binder. Think about lining up thousands of straws all lined up and packed together. One straw is weak but altogether, they can be quite strong.

When you split wood with the grain, you’re breaking lignin bonds (easy); when you break across the grain, you’re snapping cellulose fibers which is much harder.

To take full advantage of a wood’s strength, pay attention to the grain direction.  Always orient the grain so the fibers support the load. Whenever possible, cut the parts so the grain is continuous, running the length of the board.

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