WoodSkills Issue 02 - Page 103

Plain-sawn board face with pronounced cathedral grain pattern

Rift-sawn and quarter-sawn methods minimize the exaggerated cathedral wood graphics of plain-sawn boards. The resulting grain pattern or wood graphic is linear and displays convex or concave curves when viewed longitudinally. The curved pattern or graphic creates harmony in the visual aesthetic of door frame members or in case construction. Often, a linear grain orientation is better suited for certain components of a furniture piece. A linear grain pattern is ideal for structural members of a table, stand, case or in the rails and stiles of a frame and panel assembly. The nondescript linear grain facilitates assembly of the members of a furniture piece.


Instead, the grain exhibits an irregular pattern. Boards cut from reaction wood logs are usually avoided in furniture construction due to inherent tension and instability in the wood. Wood tension can manifest itself in different ways, all unfavorable to furniture making. A squirrely reaction wood pattern and pent-up tension creates boards that are unstable and likely to move irregularly or split. Highly unstable reaction wood can be detrimental when used in a furniture project. However, it can be advantageous when a certain aesthetic or visual characteristic is desired. Reaction wood often has a unique, exciting grain pattern that can be a design element in a furniture piece. Reaction wood can be used as a sculpture base or used as an element in a sculpture. Diseased or injured wood is also associated with unique wood grain characteristics or wood graphics. Disease can be in the form of the residue of bugs which have infiltrated a log.

A linear pattern or graphic is not as visually distracting as a cathedral pattern. Wood grain patterns or graphics can also be affected by the growing conditions of a tree or how a tree grows. The term reaction wood is used to describe a tree that has not grown straight and true but instead grown in a stressful environment. The stress can include constant high winds, the tree growing on the sloped side of a hill, or the tree was damaged and grew in a compromised direction. Reaction wood is identifiable by its unusual grain orientation. The grain pattern is neither straight nor cathedral.