Plainsawn Lumber

Obtained by making the first saw cut on a tangent to the circumference of the log and remaining cuts parallel to the first. Since most of the lumber produced by plain sawing is flat-grained, with some vertical-grained wood included, plain sawn lumber will tend to contain more variation within and among boards than quarter sawn lumber, in which nearly all of the wood is vertical-grained. Also, since flat-grained wood is less dimensionally stable than vertical-grained, plainsawn lumber will tend to expand and contract more across the width of the boards than quartersawn lumber.

Other physical differences to consider when choosing plainsawn lumber rather than quarter sawn:

Figure patterns resulting from the annual rings and some other types of figures are usually brought out more conspicuously by plain sawing.

Shakes and pitch pockets, when present, extend through fewer boards.

Quartersawn Lumber

Is produced by first quartering the log and then sawn perpendicular to the growth rings. Quarter sawing produces relatively narrow boards, nearly all vertical-grained, and creates more waste, making quarter sawn lumber more expensive than plain-sawn. However, much quarter sawn wood is obtained by culling the vertical-grained wood that naturally results from plain sawing.

For reasons other than cost, most people prefer quarter-sawn wood, although some people favor the variety in figuring produced in plain sawing.

Other physical factors to keep in mind when choosing quarter-sawn lumber over plain-sawn:

It twists and cups less.

It surface-checks and splits less during seasoning and in use.

Raised grain produced by separation in the annual growth rings does not appear as pronounced.

It wears more evenly.

Figuring due to pronounced rays, interlocked, and wavy grain are brought out more conspicuously.

Sapwood appears only at the edges, and is limited to the width of the sapwood in the log.

Riftsawn Lumber

Similar to quarter-sawn with many of the same advantages and limitations. It accentuates the vertical grain and minimizes the flake effect common in quarter sawn oak. The angle of the cut is changed slightly so that fewer saw cuts are parallel to the medullary rays, which are responsible for the flake effect. Riftsawing creates more waste than quartersawing, making it generally more expensive.