Understanding Grain Direction

grain direction

The truth that timber are barely cone formed can be utilized to
your benefit when studying grain course. This permits you
to learn the grain from both the sides of a board or from
the tip grain plus the face grain.

I usually inform those who the grain course in a board is like
the fur on a cat.

Stroke the cat (or board) a method and the cat will purr, and
your device will produce a pleasant floor.

Stroke the cat (or board) the flawed manner, nonetheless, and the cat
will chunk you, and your board can be as easy as rotgut

Whereas that appears easy sufficient, the factor I generally neglect
to say is that boards (like cats) can behave unpredictably.
And generally you’ll get bit even if you suppose you might be
doing every little thing proper.

Wooden is a bit more complicated than simply evaluating it to a
bundle of soda straws or the fur of a feline, however you may
perceive grain course fairly effectively for those who suppose just a little
more durable about how timber develop.

Timber are Cones
Bear in mind this: Yearly, a tree grows a brand new layer of fibers –
every layer creates one of many progress rings which can be evident in
many species. Additionally, do not forget that timber are larger on the
floor than they’re on the high of their trunks. Every layer of
fiber is subsequently barely cone formed. And so, a mature tree
is merely a collection of cones stacked up on high of each other –
I like to think about timber as a stack of ice cream cones.

The primary time I ever noticed this concept defined so merely and
brilliantly was in an article by
Russell Jokela, a woodworker residing in Japan. That article
modified the best way I have a look at boards after I take them to the
jointer, planer or workbench.

The grain course in any board could be learn utilizing at the least two
completely different strategies. Figuring out each methods will velocity your
work. It is possible for you to to inform at a look what course the
grain probably runs in virtually any board, even when that board is
rough-sawn and the grain traces are virtually unimaginable to see.

These two methods work effectively with home hardwoods and
softwoods, however they aren’t foolproof in the case of unique
woods with interlocked grain, akin to mahogany. What’s
interlocked grain? Nicely, we’re getting forward of ourselves now.
First let’s have a look at the best way most individuals are taught to learn the


The Edges Clarify the Faces
(And Vice Versa)
The most typical method to decide the grain course on the
face of a board is to look at the grain traces on the sting of
that board. The grain traces on the sting could be rising, falling,
doing each or (generally) working in a straight line.

grain direction
In the event you airplane the
face of that board so the device’s cutter presses the fibers
down, you’ll get a clear lower (like petting an animal from its
head to its tail). Airplane the alternative manner and the cutter will
act like a wedge and raise up the fibers forward of your cutter
(like rubbing an animal the flawed manner). This ends in

grain direction

Need to know learn how to airplane or joint this edge? Learn the grain
course on its adjoining face. That is normally foolproof,
until the sting runs via the center of a cathedral.

If the grain on the sting is straight, you generally can work
the board’s face in both course with good outcomes. If the
grain reverses and goes up and down on the sting, generally you
need to work in two instructions, or it’s important to sand or scrape
out the ensuing tear-out.
This complete course of additionally works if you wish to know the course
that the grain runs on the sting of a board. Merely learn the
grain traces on the face of a board to find out learn how to airplane or
joint the board’s edge.

Some Troubles With This Technique
Studying the grain on the sides works about 75 p.c of the
time for me.

Generally the sides can provide complicated or contradictory
data, particularly with plain-sawn boards which have
quartersawn grain alongside the sides. A sure variety of these
boards have grain that runs one course on one edge and the
different course on the opposite edge. What’s typical with these
miscreants is that you find yourself with a board that’s separated
into thirds: Two-thirds of the board has grain in a single
course. And one-third of the grain runs the opposite manner.

What provides? It’s known as spiral grain. That is when the fibers
in a tree’s progress ring don’t run straight up and down in a
tree. As a substitute, the fibers wrap across the trunk in a spiral.
When this happens, you may have a plain-sawn board with grain
working one course up the center of the board and alongside one
edge, after which grain working the alternative manner on the opposite

And when the grain spirals one course one 12 months (clockwise)
and the opposite course the following 12 months (counterclockwise), that
known as interlocked grain. And that’s the reason they invented large
belt sanders. Nothing is harder to work with hand instruments
and primary machine instruments.

grain direction

Right here I’m planing the guts facet of this board. The airplane is
following the cathedrals and the wooden is behaving properly.

One other widespread downside with studying face grain from the sides
is that generally you may’t learn the grain on the sides or
faces as a result of the board is within the tough. When confronted with this
state of affairs in my store, I used to only guess on the grain
course. If I used to be flawed, I’d flip the board round and
hope I had sufficient materials thickness remaining to take away the


And that’s the reason I realized to learn grain course by
the faces and the tip grain of boards.

Cathedrals, Hearts and Barking Mutts
Most boards that come into our arms are plain-sawn – that
means they’ve quartersawn grain on their edges and flat-sawn
grain within the center. It’s this flat-sawn grain within the center
that creates the cathedrals (generally known as peaks) on the
face of a board.


In the event you perceive that timber are cones, you need to use this to
your benefit.
The cathedrals on a board can level the best way that the grain is
working as soon as you already know if you’re trying on the coronary heart facet of
the board or the bark facet of a board. (You possibly can decide this
simply by trying on the finish grain.)


grain direction

Right here I’m planing the bark facet of a board. Notice that I’m
planing into the peaks of the cathedrals. Are you able to hear the
barking sound?

When trying on the coronary heart facet of a board, the grain course
typically goes the identical course because the cathedrals – consider
the cathedrals as arrows that time the best way that your handplane
ought to journey or that the cutterhead ought to intersect the wooden.


The best way I like to recollect that is: When planing the within of
the tree, airplane contained in the cathedrals.
When planing the bark facet of a board, the grain is reversed.
You airplane into the guidelines of the cathedrals. The dumb manner I
keep in mind that is that after I’m engaged on the bark facet of a
board I consider my airplane as a canine (what’s it with me and
animals?). And the cathedrals are the barking noise coming from
its mouth.

Figuring out this trick gained’t prevent from the agony of spiral or
interlocked grain, however it is going to provide help to work boards which can be in
the tough. Although you won’t be capable of see each grain line
on a tough board, you may normally select the cathedrals.

This board is cupped on the bark side.

This board is cupped on the bark facet.

And this may provide help to get the wooden surfaced shortly with much less
guessing and fewer tear-out. Right here’s how I proceed with a powered
jointer and planer:

1. Examine the board for cupping. Most boards cup on the bark
2. Examine the face of the board for the course the cathedrals
are pointing.
three. Place the board’s bark facet down on the jointer mattress with the
cathedrals pointing towards the machine’s cutterhead. Joint one
four. Take the board to the planer and insert it into the machine
(bark-side-down once more) with the cathedrals pointing away from
the machine’s cutterhead.

No Common Answer
If I had the one secret to all the time realizing the grain
course on any board, I certain wouldn’t put it in
that sells for simply $5.99 (wink). Fact is, wooden (like my
spouse’s cats) is complicated, shocking and infrequently defiant.
However the extra effort you place into understanding how wooden works,
the extra luck you’ll have in making it give you the results you want.

Excerpted from Woodworking Journal, Spring 2009;

a collection of all 16 issues of Woodworking Magazine is
available on CD

grain direction

Right here you may see the cathedrals, even within the tough. When
jointing one face and the bark facet is on the desk, the
cathedrals normally ought to level to the cutterhead.

grain direction

When planing the board, the heart-side cathedrals ought to
level away from the cutterhead.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: