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I have seen some question/answers here refer to using quarter-sawn wood. I didn't know what that was.

What are the other common ways to mill logs into lumber. This question is not about the cuts of lumber that result from this process but process itself. For more information about the resulting lumber and its application you can look here: What are the different uses for plain sawn (flat sawn), rift sawn, and quarter sawn boards?

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    Wait, wood comes from logs? I thought it just came from the lumber yard ... Next you're going to tell me beef comes from a living animal. – Daniel B. Mar 24 '15 at 18:33
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    Suggested title: What are the common cut patterns used to mill a log into boards? – rob Mar 26 '15 at 5:16
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In its basic form quarter sawing is a method of processing logs into lumber. It is one of 3 common methods: quarter, plain/flat, and rift sawing.

Different Cuts Image from Flickr. Note that there are many other cuts that exist but still fit in same general categories

Plain

Also known as bastard sawn, through and through, and tangent sawn. It the most common way to mill lumber and arguably the cheapest. The log orientation is not typically moved during this process. The widest boards are made in this way since you cut across the entire diameter.

Rift

Rift or radially sawing produces the most consistent strength across all boards since each board is cut perpendicular to the grain. Commercially, it is not common as there is a lot of waste wood. Custom woodworkers milling their own logs may use this when making furniture, for example. Visually all the boards look very similar giving projects the same look and feel.

Quarter

Quartersawn (quarter-sawn) or quartered sawn is with the rings 90 degrees to the face. The quartered sections are individually cut with not attempts to waste wood. The block can be rotated repeatedly so the saw will remove the wider portions of the quarter.

More Reading

  1. Advantage Lumber
  2. Quarter Sawing. Covers other cuts briefly.
  3. Canadian Woodworking

Important

It's important to understand that, while named the same, the milling processes and resulting boards are two different things. It would be easier to say that each of the milling processes can yield boards of different types. There is confusion that stems from this. Quarter sawn has changed meaning over time:

Traditional vs. Modern

For more reading look at What are the different uses for plain sawn (flat sawn), rift sawn, and quarter sawn boards? for more explantion of the different milled boards and how to identify them.

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    Just wanted to point out, even flat sawing a log you will get quarter sawn boards out of it. Quarter sawn lumber is with the rings 90 degrees to the face. – bowlturner Mar 24 '15 at 15:55
  • @bowlturner Thanks. Made some small changes. Feel free to edit more if you see room for improvement. – Matt Mar 24 '15 at 16:43
  • I guess it matters which part of the country you are from, I have always known the center illustration Matt has, to be rift, and the right one is quartersawn. The Fine Wood Working website and a few others suggest the same thing. Many others confirm what Matt has illustrated. Curious.... finewoodworking.com/how-to/video/… . OR baileywp.com/html/quartersawn.html Which the process of quarter sawing produces rift sawn wood. So did the other quarter sawn illustration Matt shows. – Jack Mar 25 '15 at 7:25
  • @Jack as BowlTurner showed me there is some commons cuts amonst all types. If nothing else all rift cuts from the same log should look like the one on the right (from my understanding). Some flat sawn cuts could be considered rift. – Matt Mar 25 '15 at 12:53
  • @Matt the explanations of rift sawn and quarter sawn lumber don't jive with the illustration. I've always understood quartersawn boards to be the third picture in the last illustration, with annular growth rings 90 degrees to the face and with flecking, whereas the end grain on a riftsawn board is diagonal to the face. I never realized it before, but it seems the terms as applied to milling a log do not necessarily correspond to the resulting boards. You may want to consider limiting this answer to the context of log milling, without necessarily tying each to a single resulting type of board. – rob Mar 25 '15 at 19:42
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OK just read the whole question and looked at Matt's answer.

We have two questions really that were asked.

When cutting a log what are the different cuts?

  1. Matt's answer does a great job of displaying the different types of milling a log, Plain sawn is the cheapest and easiest way to cut a log and has the least waste.
  2. Quarter sawn is more work intensive, you have to cut the log into quarters and then cut one face of then the other alternating back and forth for each quarter.
  3. Riftsawn this is the most work intensive and has the most waste from the log. Each board is a true 'Quarter sawn' board. the growth rings are all exactly 90 degrees to the face. This probably came about from the practice of riving oak logs to get boards.

And what is Quarter-sawn wood.

  1. Flat sawn wood has the grain mostly flat/parallel to the face of the board. Looking at the growth rings at the end of the board you will see they reach most of the way across from narrow side to narrow side, 'flat' across the face. Generally (0 - 30 degrees)

  2. Quarter sawn lumber has the rings perpendicular to the face and generally is defined at 60-90 degrees,

  3. Apparently Rift sawn lumber is the middle stuff (30-60 degree) lumber

This is confusing and strange but everything I look up appears to agree, which is strange, a board considered 'rift' would never come out of a rift cut log. Rift cut lumber can come out of Quarter sawn and plane/flat sawn logs.

  • Quarter sawn is what lead me to create the broader question since a separate question about each type seemed a waste. At least its not just me that thinks rift sawn shouldn't look like that. If I edit the question itself would it make my answer pair up better? – Matt Mar 26 '15 at 1:36
  • @Matt, I'm not sure, I think the problem is rift sawing gives true quarter sawn boards, and no rift sawn boards while both the other two sawing techniques can produce rift sawn lumber. The naming conventions are hosed. – bowlturner Mar 26 '15 at 1:39
  • I am going to make a separate question/answer then that talks about the different boards individually. Think that would be better. One about the process (this one) and one about the results. I think I get why it confuses people and I AM THE ONE TO FIX IT! – Matt Mar 26 '15 at 1:44
  • I've been thinking about creating a separate, clearer question for a couple days but have been waiting to see how this gets sorted out. I think the best way to preserve the answers to this existing question would be to rework the question's title and details to properly match the popular answer. – rob Mar 26 '15 at 5:21

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