Quarter sawing gets its name from the fact that the log is first quartered lengthwise, resulting in wedges with a right angle ending at approximately the center of the original log. Each quarter is then cut separately by tipping it up on its point and sawing boards successively along the axis. That results in boards with the annual rings mostly perpendicular to the faces. Quarter sawing yields boards with straight striped grain lines, greater stability than flatsawn wood, and a distinctive ray and fleck figure. It also yields narrower boards, because the log is first quartered, which is more wasteful. (wikipedia)
Quartersawn boards have two advantages: they are more resistant against warping with changes in moisture and, while shrinkage can occur, it is less troublesome.
Quartersawn oak has a decorative pattern on the board, although this depends on the timber species. Flat sawn wood (especially oak) will often display a prominent wavy grain (sometimes called a cathedral-window pattern) caused by the saw cutting at a tangent to a growth ring; since in quartersawn wood the saw cuts across the growth rings, the visible grain is much straighter; it is this evenness of the grain that gives quartersawn wood its greater stability.
In addition to the grain, quartersawn wood (particularly oak) will also often display a pattern of medullary rays, seen as subtle wavy ribbon-like patterns across the straight grain. Medullary rays grow in a radial fashion in the living tree, so while flat-sawing would cut across the rays, quarter-sawing puts them on the face of the board. This ray pattern has made quartersawn wood especially desirable for furniture and decorative panelling.
Quartersawn oak was a key feature of the decorative style of the American Arts and Crafts movement, particularly the work of Gustav Stickley, who said "The quartersawing method of cutting... renders quartersawn oak structurally stronger, also finer in grain, and, as shown before, less liable to warp and check than when sawn in any other way." Cheaper copies of Stickley's furniture were sometimes made with the less-expensive ash stained to resemble oak, but it can be identified by its lack of rays.
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