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Maple burl, not to be confused with bird's eye maple

In speaking of wood the term grain is used, in several ways. Perhaps most important is that in woodworking techniques (e.g. against the grain). In describing the application of a woodworking technique to a given piece of wood, the direction of the technique may be:

  • with the grain (easy; giving a clean result)
  • against the grain (heavy going; giving a poor result)
  • across the grain (at right angles to the grain)

In describing the alignment of the wood in the tree a distinction may be made. Basic grain descriptions and types include:

  • straight - grain which runs in a single direction, parallel to the axis of the tree
  • spiral - grain which spirals around the axis of the tree
  • interlocked - grain which spirals around the axis of the tree, but reverses its direction regularly, alternating, interlocking
Sketch of A—Quarter-sawn & B—flat-sawn
typically figured red gum table
mountain ash floor, showing some fiddleback figure

In addition, there are a few special grain alignments. Their rarity often promotes the value of both the raw material, and the finished work it becomes a part of. These include:

  • bird's eye
  • quilted
  • fiddleback
  • curly

In a wider sense, the term grain may also be applied to the orientation of the cut, the way a given piece of wood has been sawn:

  • flat-grain: flat-sawn or plain sawn,
  • edge grain: quarter-sawn or rift-sawn or straight-grained, and
  • end grain: the grain of wood seen when it is cut across the growth rings.

Strictly speaking, grain is not the same as the "figure" of wood.

There is irregular grain in burr wood or burl wood, but this is result of very many knots.

See also



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