|Veneer Grain Patterns
by Sal Marino
The actual grain pattern of a piece of wood is often
determined by the way it is sliced from the log.
The way veneer is cut off the log determines the
appearance of the grain. Veneer cut from the same log will have an entirely
different appearance if cut using different methods.
Wood mills use several different sawing methods to
turn logs into lumber boards and veneer. What follows is a discussion of some of
the more common methods.
Plain sawing is the method most often employed, because it
produces the largest quantity of usable lumber and veneer from any given tree.
Veneer is cut from one side of a log, then the log is
rotated 90 degrees and more veneer is sliced. Plain sawing produces
veneer that shows a flat grain
pattern on its face and a straight grain pattern on its edges.
Using this method, the log is first cut lengthwise into quarters. The
veneer is then sliced off of each quarter at an angle between 65 and 90
degrees to the annual rings of the log. Veneer cut farthest from the
center will produce figured grain, while veneer cut nearer the center
will display very straight grain patterns. Quarter sawing produces fewer
splits in the wood, because the cuts are made parallel with the log's
rays. These rays appear as flakes running the length of the boards.
Quarter sawing is more wasteful than plain sawing, but quarter-sawn
veneer is more stable than plain-sawn veneer, since it's less prone to
warp and twist. This is a good point to remember when you're building a
project and you're concerned about the stability of the wood.
Rift sawing is very similar to quarter sawing, in that the log is
initially cut into quarters. Then cuts are made at a 45-degree angle
to the annual rings. This produces a grain that's very thin and runs
lengthwise along the board. The wood rays that are apparent in quarter
sawing are even longer and more distinct in rift sawing.
and Crotch Grain Patterns
These two highly figured grain patterns are defined more by where on the
log they're located than how they're cut. A burl is a cancerous growth on a
tree. It's the bulblike protrusion is often seen on a large
limb or at the base of a tree. Crotch
and burl patterns are among the most attractive grain patterns you will
ever find. Yet beauty almost always has its price. Highly
figured woods such as these are very unstable and prone to warp much
more than plain-sawn or quarter-sawn veneer. You must take extra care
when working with these woods.
are highly prized by custom furniture makers, wood turners, and other
woodcraft artisans because they yield such beautiful grain patterns. The
convoluted grain in a burl changes direction and "swirls," producing a
stunningly rounded pattern. Walnut, ash, maple, and elm are some of the
most commonly used burls for furniture and cabinet work.
Crotches are cut from the top part of a tree, where two large limbs
branch off at approximate 45-degree angles from the main trunk (Figure
9). Boards cut from this section produce a highly-figured grain pattern
sometimes called flame, since the grain design often takes the shape of
a flame. Mahogany and walnut are the two most commonly used crotches.