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What makes wood beautiful

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Figure in the patterns

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.


Comments (4)
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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