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What makes wood beautiful

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Grain follows

Grain follows

Grain is a term that's often misused. It does not refer to the natural pattern seen on the surface of wood. That's figure. Technically, grain means the orientation of the wood cells. Under that definition, there are six general types of grain.


  • Straight grain indicates that the cells and fibrous components run completely or nearly parallel to the vertical plane of the tree trunk and the log that came from it.
  • Irregular wood grain implies irregular variations from the parallel orientation of the grain to the log. This most often happens around knots.
  • Diagonal grain describes what results when an otherwise straight-grained log is not sawn parallel to its vertical axis -- in other words, angled sawing.
  • Spiral grain happens when the cells and fibers grow in a left or right twisted configuration around the trunk of a tree.
  • Interlocked grain occurs when each successive layer of new growth on a tree runs in a different direction.
  • Wavy grain is produced when the direction of the fibers alternate so that a board's surface looks like a washboard, as with the figure pattern of curly maple.

Continued on page 5:  Figure in the patterns

 

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Comments (4)
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n6soo wrote:

Agreed, great article. I would like to see an expanded version in Wood in a future issue, perhaps with a discussion of how finish can enhance or alter natural appearances.

6/3/2010 11:27:15 AM Report Abuse
woodhaug wrote:

I just finished turning 6 black walnut feet for a 6 drawer low boy dresser. I did not have the size blocks so I glued uo 3 1 in pieces. Picking the best grain for the outside. After sanding and finishing they are beautifully figure legs. No pun intened. I don't know if one single piece would have given me such grain patterns.

6/3/2010 10:08:24 AM Report Abuse
jal219 wrote:

I love the difference in wood. Putting different woods together always give an appealing effect especially when stained.

3/5/2010 08:13:33 AM Report Abuse
jandsjacobson99 wrote:

Great article! I will be looking for that craftsman that can "literally" turn the sow's ear into a silk purse! I've heard of figuratively doing that, but never literally!

3/4/2010 04:12:46 PM Report Abuse

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