What is Quarter Sawn Wood?

If you’ve been shopping around for a new home or custom infill, you may have noticed the words “quarter-sawn wood” being mentioned as a finishing detail. We’ve noticed quite a few questions coming up at our showhomes centered around this detail so we feel it’s appropriate to shed some light on the topic.

Wood can be sourced from different types of trees, may appear in different styles and can arrive in different lengths, BUT did you also know that the way it’s cut can differ as well!?

There are three different cut types: quarter sawn, plain sawn and rift sawn. Each one is different based on how they are cut from the log and impacts the overall grain of the wood (see below).


Plain Sawn

Let’s start with plain sawn. Plain sawn boards are cut in flat pieces from the log as if it were cut in half (the process is often called flat sawn). Since this is an easier process, the wood is cheaper, but it can also be slightly less stable.

Plain sawn wood, when viewed at a side angle, has annual rings that either run up or down in an arch, which means the wood can shape and bend. Plain sawn has big arches, which can be called cathedrals, often making it easily identifiable. It is the most common of the cut of the three.

Quarter Sawn

Quarter sawn is much less prone to cupping, expansion and contraction than plain sawn but is ultimately pricier due to the time required to make each cut. If you’re looking for wood that is quarter sawn, chances are you’ll have to use white or red oak, because the flecks in the material allow for the best imagery over any other wood.

Since annual rings in the logs are bent in plain sawn boards, the boards can tend to warp along with the grain. That’s why some people tend to spend more and go with quarter sawn or rift sawn for sturdier wood.

Rift Sawn

Rift sawn is the most expensive of the three methods and also the least common. Since rift sawing must be cut in a very specific way (see infographic below), the amount of waste is highest, which pushes up the cost. If the patterns along the wood are linear and very close together, the wood is likely rift sawn.


If you still have any questions regarding wood styles, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we would be happy to assist you!

Written by Neil Hilts