15 Aug

Types of Wood Cuts

Different types of wood cuts produce different qualities in timber. Choosing the right cut for your project can make the difference between a long-lasting, strong and durable structure and a weak or faulty structure, so the more you know about the cuts, the better.

Here we’ve got the run down of the three most commonly used methods of cutting:

Plain Sawn

Yielding little timber waste, plain sawn timber sees a tree being cut through in straight lines. The log is rotated after each cut to a 90 degree angle, so that the annular rings are less than 30 degrees to the face of the wood; this is often referred to as tangential grain, and results in a cathedral or flame pattern visible on each board.

Alternatively, the log can be sawn without rotating, but because of the rings in the wood, following this method will actually produce quarter sawn timber when the center of the log is reached (the annular rings will be at 90 degree angles to the face of the board).

  • Durability:
    Plain sawn timber is fairly durable, but the pattern of the rings produced makes the wood susceptible to cupping, expansion and contraction in heat or humidity.
  • Grain appearance:
    Each board will have a very distinctive pattern that is individual to the section of the tree the board was taken from. This produces a very varied pattern, so matching up these boards for a uniformed appearance will be impossible. However, the uniqueness of the patterns can be very appealing.
  • Price:
    As the most widely used and highest-yielding sawing methods, it comes as no surprise that plain sawn timber is the most affordable wood cut.


Quarter Sawn

As the name suggests, quarter sawn timber first sees a log quartered, and then each quarter is cut in parallel lines perpendicular to the rings of the tree (so that the annular rings are between about 60 and 90 degrees to the face of the board); a pattern referred to as radial grain.

Another option is to cut down and across each quartered section of log in perpendicular lines, however this method produces some boards that have annular rings closer to 45 degrees, making them rift sawn boards as opposed to quarter sawn.

  • Durability:
    Quarter sawn lumber is a very durable wood cut, with the grain of the log cut in such a way that makes it resistant to the warping and bending caused by humidity.
  • Grain appearance:
    This grain pattern is much more stable and straight, and although some flecks and rays may be visible, the grain pattern generally offers a neat appearance that is more widely preferred.
  • Price:
    With quarter sawn lumber offering increased durability and aesthetic appeal, it’s no surprise that this timber is much more expensive than plain sawn timber.


Rift Sawn

Rift sawn timber is created in a similar way to quarter sawn, with each log being quartered and then cut. The difference between rift sawn timber and quarter sawn, therefore, lies in the angle the annular rings are in relation to the face of the board. In rift sawn timber, the angle is usually in between 30 and 60 degrees to the face of the board, with 45 degrees being the preferred angle. Because of the required angling of the cut, each log produces very few rift sawn timber planks.

Rift sawn timber can either be produced as an accompaniment to quarter sawn timber when produced in the perpendicular cutting method, or the quarters can be cut diagonally around the section.

  • Durability:
    Rift sawn timber is the most stable, even in extreme temperature and humidity.
  • Grain appearance:
    The real benefit of rift sawn timber is the regimented appearance of the planks. Similarly to quarter sawn timber, rift sawn has the straight, neat lines, but it doesn’t have any of the flecks and rays that can mar the otherwise uniform appearance of quarter sawn timber.
  • Price:
    With so much wastage with every production of rift sawn timber, the price of the wood is the most expensive out of any of the cuts mentioned here.

No matter the cut of wood you select, timber seasoning should be the next step your timber takes. Whether you opt for air dried or kiln-dried, the process will help reduce the water content of the wood to help the timber resist shrinkage at a later date.

Hitchcock & King have been an affordable and reliable timber merchants across London for over 40 years, offering high quality, durable timber at competitive prices. Our dedication to customer care and quick, easy ordering process make us a leading supplier across the capital. Get in touch to find out more today.