By definition, quarter sawn lumber is the angle that the annular growth rings intersect the face of the board.
However there is little agreement what exactly that angle is. Most define it as between 60 – 90 degrees, although others define it as between 75 – 90 degrees or 45 – 90 degrees. When cutting this lumber at the sawmill, each log is sawed at a radial angle into four quarters, hence the name. After that, each quarter is then plain sawn.
WHY USE QUARTERSAWN?
Quarter sawn wood has an amazing straight grain pattern that lends itself to design. Often used for cabinetry, flooring, high-end custom crafts and furniture, it is the traditional wood used in making mission style furniture. Dramatic flecking is also present in red oak and white oak. Other wood species that are sought after in quarter sawn are walnut, maple and cherry.
In addition to the desirable grain pattern this type of wood is some of the most dimensionally stable, making it ideal to work with. Quarter sawn lumber exhibits almost no twisting, warping and cupping. It is more resistant to moisture penetration and less prone to surface checking and raised grain.
More dimensionally stable and beautiful to look at? “Is there a downside to it?,” you ask. Well, yes. Because the manufacturing process results in a lower yield and is more labor intensive to produce quarter sawn lumber, the cost is higher. There is also a more limited supply because a smaller number of sawmills produce it.