Tips & Tricks: Wood Grain

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Forum topic by MsDebbieP posted 11-10-2011 11:44 AM 1869 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18615 posts in 3583 days

11-10-2011 11:44 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tips tricks wood grain

what are your tips/tricks re: WOOD GRAIN?
- seeing the direction of the grain? why it is important? utilizing it in the design? etc.

(also add links to helpful blogs etc that are related to the topic)

Gateway to all Tips & Tricks Topics

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

2 replies so far

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2406 days

#1 posted 11-12-2011 05:13 PM

I think wood grain and grain direction is probably more of a blog topic than a tips and tricks topic. Due to how much information wood grain can tell us about a woods properties and how it moves.

One of the first things we learn about is wood grain to some degree, in appearance and stability in our joinery. Once we begin to read wood grain it tells us about its properties and what and how we can use it.

For example end grain tells us how the wood was cut such as flat sawn, quarter sawn, or rift sawn. The end grain of flat sawn lumber shows its growth rings in a arc formation. So we know to alternate them for gluing 2 or more boards together to avoid cupping as much as possible. Quarter sawn and Rift sawn tend to be more stable so there is no alternating growth rings.

Another example of wood grain is open and closed grain. This tells us what and how to finish the grain, such as open grain needs some type of grain filler for a smooth finish and a closed grain will tell us that we can apply finish without the use of fillers.

Grain orientation is important in how we match up boards for glue ups to make our glue joints appear as joint-less as possible. Which is also important when using book matched grain in a glue up for that mirror image of the grain.

By examining the wood grain and reading its information we can also estimate the amount of expansion and contraction to expect with humidity changes in our joinery.

No expert here, but its just somethings I learned while woodworking over the years.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View EPJartisan's profile


1116 posts in 2548 days

#2 posted 11-15-2011 06:58 PM

Hands down the best way I’ve learned about a wood and it’s grain issues has been carving and reading. Carving teaches how sharp your tools have to be and the nuances of soft early wood and brittle late wood. Some woods require sharpening every few cuts do to the hardness (ebony), some require sharpening because they are too soft like Pine and cedar. Nothing is more annoying than having a great day doing delicate carving and thinking you can get one last slice before sharpening and the blade breaks off a piece rather than cuts it.. UGH. or slides off the wood and into your finger. Sharpness and grain go hand in hand.

Reading how a tree grows directly gives information on how that tree will react to working it and it’s best usage. a book with color pictures is best.. LOL. Every tree species is so radically different and tension and compression can usually be seen by the grain direction. wood is a living thing even after being cut down.. it moves and moves. Reading the tension gives the best design to know which way to steam bend to avoid cracking or run into the jointer to avoid chipping. etc. There is a lot of misinformation out there and casual terminology that gets confusing, but books usually conform for the sake of clarity across disciplines.. LJ’s gives me a direction and some info and I study it myself.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

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