Different Cuts of Lumber: Plain, Quarter, and Rift Sawn Wood

When it comes to choosing the hardwood to build McClure’s butcher block products, there are three standard cuts of lumber offered at most hardwood suppliers.

Between plain sawn, quarter sawn, and rift sawn wood, different cuts of hardwood can vary significantly when it comes to grain pattern, durability, yield, and price. At McClure, we routinely work with plain sawn locally harvested hardwoods. We purchase from local dry lots that buy from sawmills that work directly with landowners to harvest hardwood with environmentally sound practices. Saw mills can produce all three cuts of lumber and here we are providing an in-depth look at the varying qualities and how each type of cut is sawn and produced.

cuts-of-lumber-plain Different Cuts of Lumber: Plain, Quarter, and Rift Sawn Wood

High Yield – Least Expensive

Plain-sawn wood, also referred to as flat-sawn, is typically the most common cut of lumber. Because plain sawn lumber is cut straight from end-to-end of a log, this type of cut yields more wood than any other, which also makes it the most affordable variety of wood. Plain-sawn hardwood is also the fastest to produce as it is sliced directly through the center.

The grain of plain-sawn lumber is defined by the circular rings of the lumber, which create a cathedral pattern. This type of grain, referred to as tangential grain, is not as structurally sound as the others and plain-sawn lumber has a higher chance of warping or twisting than quarter or rift-sawn wood. However when making butcher block we do not edge or plank glue up plain sawn lumber that method would be prefered for both Quarter or Rift sawn lumber.

What happens in edge gluing of plain sawn lumber is we take those boards and slice them up into strips the thickness of the block we are making.  For example a 3″ thick top we would slice boards into 3 3/8″ wide strips, we then face glue this plain sawn lumber together and you then expose the edges of the boards, that can have patterns of rift, quarter, or plain sawn all exposed as the face of the boards are glued back together in an actual blend of all three patterns. That is in essence the art of edge glue the face of plain sawn lumber together. Both Quartersawn lumber cuts or rift would never be edge glued into a butcher block premium hardwood Kitchen Island or counter top. The purpose and use of both Quarter Sawn and Rift sawn below would be for cabinetry or for a plank style construction. See more here for difference between Plank and Edge Glue construction.

cuts-of-lumber-quarter Different Cuts of Lumber: Plain, Quarter, and Rift Sawn Wood

Medium Yield – More Expensive Than Plain Sawn

Quarter-sawn wood is made by cutting a log into four quarters, which are then plain sawn diagonally. The resulting planks have a sturdy, linear grain pattern, though quarter sawing does create more waste than plain-sawn lumber. Because it is more difficult to cut than plain-sawn wood and yields less product, quarter-sawn wood is also more expensive than plain-sawn lumber.

The grain of quarter-sawn lumber is intended to be perpendicular to the face of the board, which offers strong stability and durability.

cuts-of-lumber-rift Different Cuts of Lumber: Plain, Quarter, and Rift Sawn Wood

Low Yield – Most Expensive

Though it is the most expensive cut of lumber and yields less wood than other cuts, rift-sawn wood is the most stable type of lumber available. Rift-sawn wood is cut along the radius of the log, or at right angles to the tree’s rings.

When it comes to rift-sawn lumber, the tree’s rings are meant to be 45 degrees to the face of the board, those the rings typically range anywhere between 30 and 60 degrees. This grain, also referred to as radial grain, offers more structural support than both quarter and plain-sawn wood.

Because the majority of McClure’s handcrafted butcher block tops and hardwood Kitchen Island or Coutertops are made up of planks glued up face-to-face, the products utilize plain-sawn lumber while offering superior stability and a variety of vibrant grain patterns after the glue up. However, McClure’s expert woodworkers have experience working with all three cuts of lumber, and can build any product with a particular cut upon request.

Looking for a handcrafted shuffleboard table or premium butcher block furniture made by woodworkers that select every individual plank by hand? Contact us today to see and feel the McClure Tables difference for yourself.

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