LumberJocks

Grain Direction in Projects

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by Eric_S posted 08-27-2009 02:21 PM 2530 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1551 posts in 2661 days


08-27-2009 02:21 PM

I was wondering if their were best practices for grain direction in tables and legs and other projects. I’ve seen legs where the grain goes horizontally and others where its vertical. is this just a cosmetic choice or will it affect the sturdiness and structural integrity of a project? I know wood will expand and contract over its life time so I was wondering if grain goes horizontally on legs if that means a table would eventually wobble if built like this?

I’ve also seen book case sides where the grain runs vertically or horizontal so again which is correct if any. And on table tops I take it you want the grain to run the length of the table. Are there exceptions?

Thanks,
Eric

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN


5 replies so far

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 3361 days


#1 posted 08-27-2009 08:04 PM

Typically you want to orient the grain in the direction that provides the best overall strength for the piece, and that provides for movement, expansion, and contraction.

For example, for a table leg, you want the grain to run vertically along the length of the leg. This provides the greatest strength overall for the leg itself, and also provides strength in the area where joinery will occur. If you try to use stock for a leg where the grain runs perpendicular to the length of the piece (like a barber pole) you will tend to decrease the overall strength of the leg. It also makes it difficult to achieve a strong joint as the direction of the grain provides much less strength. If force is applied perpendicularly to the leg (with horizontal grain) the leg is more apt to fracture than with vertical grain. Of course, the species of wood, the grain pattern, the density of the specific piece of wood all have a factor in the overall strength.

With respect to case sides, panels, the direction of grain is also important. Wood expands and contracts in all directions, but moreso across the grain than length-wise with the grain. Thus, you need to consider when (not if) the piece of wood moves later, how will it affect the construction of the piece?

-- Sam

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1551 posts in 2661 days


#2 posted 08-27-2009 08:43 PM

Thanks for confirming my thoughts Sam. I’ve seen some pieces where the grain on legs is horizontal and I wasn’t sure if I just didn’t know all the facts or if it was poor design choice.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1551 posts in 2661 days


#3 posted 08-27-2009 08:46 PM

You say it depends on the species of wood though and grain pattern? Could you please elaborate? Are some woods so strong that it just doesnt matter? or is it because they dont move that much such as Teak? I’m wanting to learn about woods so that I make good design choices and use the correct materials.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 3361 days


#4 posted 08-28-2009 01:48 AM

Some woods are strong enough that the grain direction isn’t a big factor. Some woods have a grain pattern that is so dense it is almost appears non-existent. Some woods like hickory take a lot of abuse, and the grain direction is less of a factor. Some hardwoods may have the grain in a horizontal direction (perpendicular to the length), yet still be stronger than another hardwood in a vertical direction. One thing that can help with learning about grain direction is to read how the cabinet and furniture makers of the past did it. EVERYTHING they did back 300 years ago still applies to today, with the exception that furniture and cabinets made back then weren’t made to contend with central heating, but the principles still apply. Do some research on wood selection for chairs. Each part of a chair was typically made of a wood that was best suited for the application. For example, in the same chair you might see pine used for the seat. but not for the legs. The old timers (even 300 years ago) knew what they were doing. And it still applies today.

Get the two books by Bruce Hoadley. Everything you ever wanted to know about wood. GReat books.

-- Sam

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1551 posts in 2661 days


#5 posted 08-28-2009 02:15 AM

Thank you. All I knew about grain was how to read which way it’s going.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com