Grain Direction


Last month we had an in-house session with members of the Cincinnati Woodworkers Club. The topic of the day was wood structure and joinery. During the talk, we spent time discussing wood grain. As a quick demonstration, and to show the most important thing to know when woodworking, we took a hatchet to a piece of firewood.

28 MA High ChestIf you attempt to cut across the grain, the effort required is substantially higher than if you chop with the grain. Across the grain requires you to sever each of the “straws” of the tree. In chopping with the grain you are splitting between those straws.

Yes, this is basic information. But many of us either didn’t know this information, or have forgotten it altogether. Knowing this about wood makes it easy to understand which way the wood grain should run on table aprons, and highboy and lowboy sides. It also helps when making something as small as wood clips or buttons used to secure a top in place. (If your grain runs the wrong way, tenons easily snap.)

What happens when a highboy’s lower case side cracks in two? If the grain is properly oriented (front-to-back), the piece continues on with a cracked side. If grain orientation is incorrect (top-to-bottom), you could have reason to add feet to the top section and make it chest of drawers – if it survives the crash to the floor. Think about it.

— 360 Woodworking

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3 thoughts on “Grain Direction

  1. But won’t the vertical grain of the legs cause sides with horizontal grain to spit, unless expansion room is provided, as on a breadboard end?

    1. You’re correct, Dick. This is why it’s important to provide a bit of room around the individual tenons. There is going to be expansion and contraction, so the extra space allows movement without binding the joint or putting in under stress. It’s better to have a side split if it’s going to, but for the case to stay as a unit.

  2. Very good point guys about wood grain. People ask me why do I use a fro and rive a log when making
    spindles , leg and chair hoop material for windsor chairs. I tell them if I cut across the grain then the
    pieces have no strength. Sawing across grain is a disaster in any wood project to me. No wonder the
    the cheap kitchen chairs from the factory fall apart so soon. Maybe they should call them bought at Rooms that went.

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