Which Wood Figure?

Which Wood Figure?

In last week’s issue of Woodworker’s Journal Weekly, Rob asked your opinion about wood grain and figure (and whether it agreed with his).

Yes, is the answer to that question for some of you. – Editor

“Quartersawn oak, either red or white. You have a good head on your shoulders.” – Ken Koehn

Or, yes with caveats. – Editor

“I like quartersawn oak but, when I have a chance to use it in a project ( such as a small box), I love to use bird’s-eye maple!” – Denny Grant

“I’m with you on quartersawn grain for red and white oak as well as a few special woods like sycamore.  Some other woods, such as hard maple, would bore me to death if it were quartersawn. For other species, though, I love curly grain when it’s available.” – Allen Wagner

“Like you, I am a huge fan of the look of quartersawn oak.  On the other hand, I have had some limited experience with other figures that were equally satisfying.  I was fortunate to find some maple with a tiger stripe figure that went into a case rebuild for a radio. Another time, by sanding down to 600-grit, I was able to uncover a wavy pattern in some ash in a flag case I made for my son.  Now I find myself looking for the hidden figure in all sorts of wood and stone, when I work in that medium for table tops.” – Lee Ohmart

Some were more open-minded. – Editor

“When I do a project, I get a picture in my mind of what it is I want to do. Maybe draw a rough sketch if it’s something bigger so I have an idea of how much wood I’ll need for it. Then my next stop is to paw through my own wood rack and see if I have anything that I think will do the project justice. If not, here in Chicago we are blessed with a place called Owl Hardwoods. They have aisles of many woods in various lengths, widths and thicknesses, mostly semi-rough-cut. Also many available in plain- and quartersawn. Each piece is also individually priced. I find an aisle with a wood that I think will look good (and that I can afford!) for my project and then start selecting pieces and picturing where each  will go on my project. I often buy a few extra as possible alternates for key areas. What doesn’t get used in the current project makes it in some future one. The cool and the bad thing is most of what’s in my rack are interesting pieces. When I need to do a quick and dirty project I’m looking through my supply thinking, ‘I don’t want to use a nice piece of wood like that for THIS project!’” – Bill Koski

Or had a broader philosophy behind their preferences. – Editor

“I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to accumulate wood from hurricane Hugo and a local sawmill. I have created a lot of great projects from the wood (all the Hugo wood is consumed now) and still have defined and undefined projects to create. My wonderful, talented wife is a good source of ideas, and it becomes my challenge to make them realized. One of the time-consuming aspects is finding what I need in what I have. Being from a sawmill, it is always a challenge to find straight and long enough. I have used my finger joint router bit frequently with a lot of grain judgment and, in one case, gluing together to make the final thickness I needed and, in others, being creative in the enhancement of knotholes, etc. All of this is to say, in my case, it has been a case of making the very best of what I have and therefore a bit more pride in the final product.” – Jeff Stikeleather

“I read your column on wood and grain preferences. I am a classically trained (read: apprenticeship in Germany and marquetry program in Italy many, many years ago) designer/maker with 40 years plus years working with clients and participating in shows. The ‘right grain pattern/cut’ is the one that makes the piece so magnificent that your client cannot stop touching and staring at it! Each species has its own variety of grain appearances and all must be selected based upon the appearance one is wanting to create. Thus, quartersawn oak is a fantastic choice if you wish to work in oak and have it appear very polished or noble. Flatsawn oak can make beautiful door panels if one pays attention to the arching grain pattern.  Mahogany or walnut crotch sawn as veneer can give a piece a spectacular look, and burls bring patterns that, when combined with other grain patterns, can result in showstopping pieces. So, if one stretches their imagination to include the many species and lumber cuts, there is no end to what can be created! Throw in sawn veneers, and the options are limitless!” – Clint Struthers

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