Quarter Sawn White Oak Furniture
Quarter sawn white oak furniture gives you your money’s worth. In addition to unique patterns throughout the grain, oak wood that is quarter sawn provides added strength that pays off in the long run. Its added resistance to cupping and warping make it a contender for solid wood furniture that needs to go the distance.
There’s more to the cut than just straight across,
And this method provides more gain than loss,
By Arts and Crafts furniture this wood has been worn,
The flecks, flakes and strength of oak that’s quarter sawn.
What Is the Difference Between Oak and Quarter Sawn Oak?
Quarter sawn oak is not a tree type. It’s the same type of oak wood we’re talking about when we talk about “regular” oak wood. The difference lies in the way it is cut. Let’s take a look at plain sawing versus quarter sawing oak wood.
Plain sawn, also known as flat sawn, means the oak log is cut parallel through the log. This creates a prominent grain pattern and allows more of the log to be used. It is the most cost-efficient method for cutting lumber.
Quarter sawn means the oak log is cut in quarters first. Then each quarter is turned and cut again. This process is repeated until the right board size is achieved. What happens when the oak log is quarter sawn like this? A few things:
- The growth rings create a straighter grain pattern that’s not as thick as the grain pattern of plain sawn oak wood.
- The quarter sawn cut offers more stability and resistance to cupping and warping.
Both oak that is plain sawn and quarter sawn are strong and full of durability. But quarter sawn oak offers a higher degree of stability and will expand and contract less in response to humidity.
Flecks, Flakes and Features of Quarter Sawn Oak
The colors in quarter sawn oak’s heartwood and sapwood are beautiful oak colors that include various shades of white to medium brown with the heartwood including some pink hues.
The unique quarter sawn cutting method produces a straighter grain and creates unique markings. These markings include medullary rays and flecks.
Medullary rays are also called “tiger marks” or “pith rays.” They are caused by plant cells that let sap move freely throughout the tree trunk. When the wood is quarter sawn, the cells create these unique markings that often show up in wavy patterns, creating a decorative feature in the wood.
What Are the Advantages of Quarter Sawn Lumber?
If you’re looking for a strong, stable wood with unique markings, quarter sawn white oak is the right pick! The unique way the oak log is cut in quarter sawing makes the wood more resistant to cupping, warping, twisting and even moisture. The pores of white oak wood’s growth rings contain tyloses which contribute to making white oak more resistant to rot and to water. This is why oak wood is a good choice for wine or whiskey barrels.
Quarter sawn white oak is hard and heavy. It has a 1360 Janka* hardness rating, making it a highly durable wood. (To give you an idea of how its hardness compares to other hardwoods, sugar maple has a 1450 Janka hardness rating, and walnut scores a 1010).
*The Janka Hardness Test involves measuring the force required to embed a .444 inch small steel ball to half its diameter into a piece of wood. It compares the relative hardness of different wood species.
With quarter sawing across the growth rings, a straighter grain is produced and contributes to the wood’s stability. The wood surface is smooth and the flecks and rays are stunning, creating wood furniture that’s unique. Quarter sawn oak offers a lighter grain pattern for fans of oak wood who are not fond of the prominence of the grain pattern in plain sawn oak wood.
How Does Quarter Sawn White Oak Look with Stain?
Quarter sawn oak is highly workable. It glues well and accepts stains well and is good with both machine and hand tools. Its lighter colors make it a great option to stain, and it responds well to steam bending.
What Is Quarter Sawn Oak Wood Commonly Used For?
In addition to furniture, quarter sawn oak is a popular choice for cabinets, flooring, doors, trim, moulding and barrels.
Quarter sawn oak furniture became popular during the 20th century and was the defining wood for Arts & Crafts style furniture. The simpler, straighter grain pattern fit the purpose and look of Arts & Crafts style. It is still a favorite look for Mission style today and can be relied on for furniture that sees heavy use on a regular basis.
Where do Oak Trees Grow?
There are over 60 species of oak trees growing in the United States alone, with hundreds more growing globally. The largest variety of oak trees grow in the United States. Most of them can be categorized as either red oaks or white oaks. White oak trees can grow as tall as 80 to 100 feet and up to 50 inches in diameter.
Does Quarter Sawn Oak Furniture Cost More Than Regular Oak?
Yes. While oak trees are abundant, the process of quarter sawing requires more effort and time, and it cannot use as much of the oak log as plain sawing can. For these reasons, the cost of quarter sawn white oak furniture is higher than regular oak.
How Do I Care for Quarter Sawn White Oak Furniture?
Quarter sawn white oak furniture does not have special requirements concerning care and can be treated like any other solid hardwood furniture. For guidelines on this, please visit our Caring for Wood Furniture Page for all the tips you need.
More information about quarter sawn white oak can be found at our quarter sawn white oak Q&A blog post.
Please contact a furniture specialist with any questions about quarter sawn oak furniture.