What makes wood beautiful
Figure in the patterns
Although some grain configurations in wood frequently do result in figure, the word describes the pattern that often occurs when several features interact, including irregular grain, rays, color deposits, and growth rings. Irregular grain in crotches and burls causes "feather" figure, "plum-pudding" figure, and others. Interlocked grain promotes "ribbon" figure and "Bird's-eye." Wavy grain creates "fiddleback" or "tigerstripe" figure.
Highly sought and expensive figured veneers are regularly manufactured by slicing or peeling a log with irregular or interlocked grain in a special manner. Changing the angle of cut enhances the irregularities and yields special effects. It' the same with lumber; quartersawing a regular-grained wood sometimes results in figure pattern, again as with white oak and its ray flecks.
Another term used by woodworkers to describe what loosely could be called figure pattern is "character marks." This refers to naturally occurring ingrown knots, "tracks" left by insects in the living tree, "bird peck," and other signs that make the wood appear less than perfect. However, a skilled craftsman employing wood with character marks in a project can literally turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.
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