Growth Rings on Wood – How They Affect Your Stock

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wood ringsNo matter your skill level as a woodworker, you’ve definitely had the chance to see end grains on pieces of hardwood and softwood.

These end grains are similar to growth rings on wood which you see in a tree trunk’s cross-section.

When you’re looking at trees which recently felled, you get to learn so much about the tree just by looking at its trunk.

First of all, most people know that the rings on the tree tell of its age. However, if you take a closer look on each ring, you get to see an area with a lighter color and is wider than the darker area.

The lightly colored area symbolizes the growth occurring the summer, while the darker area refers to its growth during the winter. Back in the old days, people harvested trees during the winter since it required less time to dry.

So, how will this knowledge help you out as a woodworker? Well, if you found out that the tree was harvested right before spring, its sap was probably out of the tree at the time when it was cut and it would mean that the timber is easier to kiln-dry.

Thanks to the ease in kiln-drying, your wood would be less likely to twist, bow, or cup, even if it is just as dry as the lumber that was harvested during summertime.

Particularly in softwood varieties, as the tree grows in height, it sheds its lower limbs because they tend to be shaded and are exposed to less sunlight. Once these lower limbs fall off, there will be new growth rings that will cover up the area.

This then is visible in the tree’s trunk and later it will also be seen in the wood’s grain as a knot. Tiny knots can be seen as simply character in a piece of wood but if you get to find one with larger knots it will likely cause you problems so it should definitely be avoided.

The way that lumber is cut from the trunk will also determine how these growth rings, and even knots, become visible as the grain.

When referring to grain pattern, it’s simply the inner and outer portions of the growth rings. This side grain however, looks incredibly different when compared to wood which is quarter-sawn.

If you’re just going to your local home center and even lumber yards, you’ll find that commercially available woods are flat-sawn. What you should do is take a look at the growth rings on wood by checking the end grains because it will unlikely be perpendicular to the board’s wider end.

When flat sawn, you get to have a few quarter-sawn boards for each tree but, these boards are oftentimes reserved for high-end projects. These boards can cost you more compared to lumber which was flat-sawn and can be used in fine woodworking projects.

Now, you may be armed with a lot of knowledge already, but another thing to remember is that oak, maple, and other kinds of wood may have distinct differences when they’re quarter-sawn than when they’re flat-sawn.

Finally, although you can request to order lumber which has been quarter-sawn, you’d better be prepared to pay the costly premium.

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