Wood grain

For other uses, see Wood grain (disambiguation).
The weathered trunk of a lodgepole pine tree showing an extremely spiral grain

Wood grain is the longitudinal arrangement of wood fibers[1] or the pattern resulting from this.[2]


R. Bruce Hoadley wrote that grain is a "...confusingly versatile term..." including the direction of the wood cells (straight grain, spiral grain), surface appearance or figure, growth-ring placement (vertical grain), plane of the cut (end grain, quarter sawn, flat sawn, etc.), rate of growth (narrow grain), relative cell size (open grain), and other meanings.[3]

Physical aspects

Perhaps most important physical aspect of wood grain in woodworking is the grain direction or slope (e.g. against the grain). The two basic categories of grain are straight and cross grain. Straight grain runs parallel to the longitudinal axis of the piece. Cross grain deviates from the longitudinal axis in two ways, spiral grain or diagonal grain. The amount of deviation is called the slope of the grain.[3]

In describing the application of a woodworking technique to a given piece of wood, the direction of the technique may be:

Grain alignment must be considered when joining pieces of wood, or designing wooden structures. For example, a stressed span is less likely to fail if tension is applied along the grain, rather than across the grain. Grain direction will also affect the type of warping seen in the finished item.[4]

In describing the alignment of the wood in the tree a distinction may be made. Basic grain descriptions and types include:

Sketch of AQuarter-sawn & Bflat-sawn
typically figured red gum table
mountain ash floor, showing some fiddleback figure

Aesthetic aspects

In its simplest aesthetic meaning, wood grain is the alternating regions of relatively darker and lighter wood resulting from the differing growth parameters occurring in different seasons (i.e., growth rings) on a cut or split piece of wood.

Special grain alignments produce figure in wood. Their rarity often promotes the value of both the raw material, and the finished work it becomes a part of. These include:

The way a given piece of wood has been sawn affects both its appearance and physical properties:

Strictly speaking, grain is not always the same as the "figure" of wood.

There is irregular grain in burr wood or burl wood, but this is result of very many knots.

See also


  1. "grain, n.1". def 15. Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0) © Oxford University Press 2009
  2. "grain.", def. 7. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 13 Jan. 2015. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grain>.
  3. 1 2 Hoadley, R. Bruce. "Glossary." Understanding Wood: A Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology. Newtown, Conn.: Taunton, 1980. 265. Print.
  4. Wood Movement, WoodworkDetails.com
  5. Punmia, B.C., Ashok Kumar Jain, and Arun Kumar Jain. Basic civil engineering: for B.E. / B.Tech first year courses of various universities including M.D.U. and K.U., Haryana. New Delhi: Laxmi Publications, 2003. 78. Print.

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