Plain Sawn, Quarter Sawn, and Rift Sawn Materials.
What does it all mean?
Material types play a large role in overall quality as well as cost.
The following is to better help you understand how each is different and why.
Please read on.
Plain Sawn lumber is the most common cut of lumber. By making parallel cuts through the log, a wider plank is produced. The annular growth rings are typically 30 degrees or less to the face of the board, which gives the plank the recognizable “cathedral” grain. This type of cut utilizes the entire log, minimizing waste and maximizing yield. Because of the efficiency of this method, it is also the most affordable. The plain sawn (tangential) grain is less dimensionally stable than other cuts and can cup more easily.
Quarter Sawn lumber is produced when the log is cut into four quarters (hence the name), then each quarter is flat-sawn. The growth rings are generally 60-90 degrees to the face of the board, resulting in a more linear grain pattern without the “cathedral” effect. In Red Oak and White Oak, this cut also shows a flecking or rays in the grain. Since this type of cut involves more labor and produces more waste, the cost is higher than plain sawn lumber. Due to the position of the growth rings in the cut, Quarter Sawn lumber is more dimensionally stable than Plain Sawn. It resists expansion and contraction on plank’s width and also resists cupping as well.
Rift Sawn lumber is the most elite of the cuts. The log is milled perpendicular to the growth rings, which are 30-60 (ideally 45) degrees to the face of the board. It produces a linear, straight grain with a clean, consistent look. This method produces the most waste, significantly increasing the cost of the material. Rift Sawn lumber is the most dimensionally stable cut of lumber available. Often Rift Sawn and Quarter Sawn lumber is combined in flooring – better known as Rift & Quartered. It is also combined in some furniture pieces where an area of straight grained wood is desired with a highlighted or focused area using Quarter Sawn.