Oak vs. Quarter Sawn Oak for Wood Furniture

Beth Rice 07/10/2021

Oak wood with its prominent wood grain, strength and durability is the most commonly used wood for solid wood furniture.  We’re pitting oak woods against each other, specifically “regular” or “plain sawn” oak versus quarter sawn oak. Why? Because they’re cut differently and that affects the look, stability, performance and cost. You’ll have to decide which oak look is for you as we compare oak vs quarter sawn oak for wood furniture.

While there are many types of oak trees, the two main oak woods used to make oak furniture are white oak and red oak. Oak wood is light in color with white oak featuring medium tans and browns mixed with some yellow tones and red oak showcasing browns and whites with a pink hue.  Interestingly, red oak has lighter shades than white oak. DutchCrafters Amish furniture uses red oak for oak furniture and white oak for quarter sawn oak furniture.

Amish Goshen Chairside Shaker Table
The Amish Goshen Shaker Chairside Table in quarter sawn oak.

Let’s Talk Oak Wood Cuts

The most common cut for oak wood is plain or flat sawn and is the least expensive way to go from oak tree log to usable oak lumber. Plain sawing involves cutting the log so that the growth rings of the tree intersect the face of the board at no larger than a 30 degree angle. The wood is cut parallel through the log. More of the log can be used with plain sawing.

Quarter sawn oak wood is born with a specific cutting method. Oak lumber is turned or rotated after each cut, and the growth rings intersect the face of the board at a 90 degree angle. The log is cut in quarters, then each quarter is turned and cut again. This is repeated until the right board size is reached.  These little turns have a dramatic effect on the oak lumber produced, the look of the growth rings and figuring, as well as the wood’s performance.

Amish 72 Wood Grant Sideboard
The Amish 72″ Grant Sideboard in quarter sawn oak.

Quarter sawing makes for a straighter grain pattern not as thick as plain sawn oak as well as additional stability and resistance to warping and cupping.

Facts About Plain Sawn Oak Wood

Plain sawn oak wood is the most commonly used and least expensive wood for hard wood furniture. Plain sawn oak is strong and durable. The grain pattern is active—with oak you will get a lot to look at in the wood. Plain sawing produces lumber that offers a timeless look and is supportive and ideal for wood furniture that will get a lot of use.


Plain Sawn Oak Pros

  • More of the log can be used
  • Strength and stability
  • More active grain pattern than quarter sawn
  • Durable and strong
  • Prominent wood grain
  • Receives stain and finish well
  • Rich with color

Plain Sawn Oak Cons

  • Prominent grain pattern
  • Risk of cupping or bowing with age
  • Not a good candidate for painted finish

Facts About Quarter Sawn Oak Wood

Because of the way it’s cut, quarter sawn oak wood is even more stable than plain sawn. It’s less prone to cupping and there’s less of the natural movement of expanding and contracting of the wood.

Cutting with a quarter-sawn method is going to bring alive the rays (patterns) that can be found in the wood. Flecks and rays will appear with this method of cutting.

Quarter sawn oak costs more than plain sawn oak, as the cutting method requires more labor and produces more waste.

Quarter sawn wood is a popular choice for arts and crafts and Mission-style wood furniture.

Amish Signature Mission Work Desk
The Amish Santa Rosa Work Desk in quarter sawn oak.

Quarter Sawn Oak Pros

  • Unique patterns and figuring
  • Added resistance to cupping and warping
  • Grain pattern not as thick as plain sawn
  • Expands and contracts less in humid conditions
  • Strength and stability
  • Lighter grain pattern than plain sawn
  • Easy to work with
  • Accepts stains well
  • Rich with color
  • Receives stain well
  • Resists wear, decay and moisture
  • Popular choice for Mission and Arts and Crafts style furniture

Quarter Sawn Oak Cons

  • More labor intensive
  • Not a good candidate for painted finish
  • Costs more
  • Creates more waste
Amish Burlington Hall Tree Bench
The Amish Wewoka Hall Seat in quarter sawn oak.

Which Costs More: Plain Sawn or Quarter Sawn Oak?

While oak is one of the lower priced hardwoods used for furniture, quarter sawn oak is going to cost more than plain sawn oak due to the added labor involved in manufacturing it as well as the fact that more of the tree log is wasted cutting it.

Whether plain sawn or quarter sawn, oak does wood furniture in a big way. Of all the solid woods used for wood furniture, it has the most prominent grain, never dull and ordinary, but active and rich. Oak colors radiate warmth with rich brown hues. Both cutting methods supply furniture with wood that’s reliable to perform. It is the most widely used wood in American furniture making.

So, does plain sawn oak or quarter sawn oak appeal more to you?

Related Posts
Oak vs. Brown Maple: How They Compare for Wood Furniture

It’s time for oak versus brown maple, where we’ll take on the two least expensive hardwood types that offer a Read more

Quarter Sawn White Oak Wood Q & A

Quarter sawn white oak wood is known among solid wood furniture for its durability, strength and firm texture. We receive Read more

Cherry vs. Walnut Wood for Furniture

We take another close look at comparing wood types, and this time it’s cherry versus walnut wood for furniture. Two Read more

Why Is Reclaimed Barnwood So Popular?

It’s the age of reclaimed barnwood, and one of the great things about it is barnwood already comes into the Read more

About the Author

Leave a Reply