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I am having a wand made, and I wondered if wood cuts mattered. I heard rift sawn wood is the best for strength in boards, but they only receive pressure from the surface. A wand would only receive pressure on the long part and not the ends, but it would receive pressure from all around. Is rift sawn still the strongest cut? Does it matter? Money is not an issue. I care only about strength and durability over time.

  • If it was my goal to have maximum strength in a stick, I'd be sure to have it riven. (Or at least I hope that's the past tense of riving.) Anyway, riving is the process of splitting the wood naturally along the grain, so you have long strands of wood fibers. – Aloysius Defenestrate Jun 11 '15 at 3:58
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I am having a wand made, and I wondered if wood cuts mattered.

Basically no it shouldn't. Assuming I am imagining the form of the wand correctly, the grain will run across the cross-section in nearly exactly the same way irrespective of the cut of the original piece of wood:

Quarter- v. plain-sawn cross sections
Grain orientation in the other direction on the other hand might contribute greatly to whether you end up with a stronger or weaker piece. If the wand is straight (somewhat like a drumstick or a conductor's baton) then straight grain that runs the full length will give the strongest result, but if there is what is called grain run-out (second image below) it will be more prone to failure if subjected to sideways forces:

Grain runout

Note this is only relatively weak, very strong woods like oak and hickory can be very resilient even if the grain is less than ideal (as is the case on many modern axe and hammer handles for example).

I heard rift sawn wood is the best for strength in boards, but they only receive pressure from the surface.

Other things being equal quarter-sawn should be the strongest, and most stable (in addition to having the visual characteristics that it is often valued for). As Matt's answer already covers, some rift-sawn planks will effectively be quarter-sawn wood, but not all. So strength (and stability) of rift-sawn wood can be highly variable.

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Warning: Depending who you mean by rift-sawn it can also mean quarter-sawn. In this question it was understood that modern quarter-sawn wood is what you are describing. I am going to refer to quarter-sawn from here.

Unless your wood stock is from a twig I would guess that the wood you end up with will have the grain of Quarter-Sawn anyway because of its size. This is of course assuming the length of the wand is perpendicular to the grain.... which you would want (I refer you to Graphus' answer for a visual representation of my meaning). This type of wood is favoured by furniture makers as it is less likely to warp.

For a wood to be Quarter-Sawn it has to average 60 degree to 90 degree in grain direction. With a wood diameter that small you should get that (Again I refer you to Graphus' answer for a visual representation).

We have not discussed wood selection yet and that is harder to answer since I do not know your location but oak, hickory, elm and white ash would be good choices to consider. They are primary choices for tool handles and I think would fit well here.

Another question here covers some simple methods in making wands if you were so inclined. Part of me feels you are having it made for you but good information none the less.

Wood features to avoid

The two most important things I would avoid when choosing wood, especially for this project, is avoid the pith and, in general, knotting wood. Using either is asking for a premature break. Like if the knot was to cross the entire diameter of the wand.

  • Although it's a good general caution, knots need not be an inherent weakness if the form of the piece allows them to be incorporated properly, e.g. as in longbows made from knotty yew. – Graphus Jun 11 '15 at 9:16
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As long as the grain goes in the same direction as the long dimension of the wand you are good. If the grain goes across the length of the wand it will be much weaker and easily break.

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To answer your title question Does the cut of wood matter?, unless the wand is going to be used by the 2- to 4-year-old set to beat on everything in sight, I don't think that the strength or cut of wood is going to matter in the least so long as you go beyond small twig size in diameter. If this is being made as a keepsake for someone it will, most likely, sit on a shelf and be played with on occasion.

My daughter has several manufactured (plastic/resin) "Harry Potter" wands which sit in their closed boxes, and she'll get them out once or twice a year to fiddle with them for a few minutes. Granted, she's 18 now, so not quite as fanatical as when she was 12, but even when she was younger, the handling was gentle, as she viewed them more as a collector's item/keepsake than an actual toy.

Even if it's being made for LARP use, that would likely involve older people (beyond the 2- to 4-year-old set) who would likely take care in the use of the wand, and wouldn't throw it, beat on people, rocks, or trees, with it, etc.

I'm posting as an answer to this question in particular, but I feel it applies to all of your I'm having a wand made questions.

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