Saturday, October 20, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

After finalizing the design of the cabinet, I gave thought to just what kind of wood I'd use to make it. I knew that I would use white oak, but that's just the species. There are actually three different kinds of white oak you can buy:
  • Plain sawn
  • Rift sawn
  • Quarter sawn

The differences between these three types have to do with the appearance of the grain on the face of the boards. The grain patterns are determined by where the board was in the log & it's position relative to the growth rings.

If you look at the ends of a plain sawn oak board, the growth rings pretty much arc across one of the faces of the board. This produces an effect called "cathedral grain". That is, the grain makes a very high arching pattern on the face of the board. Here is an example of the grain on a plain sawn white oak board.

The growth rings on rift sawn oak run at about a 60° angle from one face to the other. This produces very straight grain patterns with no arches. It's also rather plain looking, since the grain essentially forms parallel lines along the length of the board. Here is an example of the grain on a rift sawn white oak board.

Quarter sawn oak boards have the growth rings running perpendicular or nearly perpendicular to the faces of the boards. Oak trees have these structures in them called medulary rays. These rays run from the center of the tree to the outside in a radial fashion, and help strengthen the trunk. They're not visible in plain or rift sawn oak, but become visible in quarter swan stock. They produce interesting effects in the grain that run generally perpendicular to the grain on the face and produce that classic Arts & Crafts or Mission look. Here is an example of the grain on a quarter sawn white oak board.

This article has an excellent picture showing you how logs are plain sawn, rift sawn, and quater sawn.

When you plain slice a log, you will get boards that are rift & quarter sawn, simply because of where the board came from in the log. Most of the boards, though, will have plain sawn grain. In addition, plain slicing results in the least amount of waste from the log (maximum yield). If you were to truly quarter saw a log, you would get the most waste (minimum yield). So when it comes to price, plain sawn stock is the cheapest and quarter sawn is the most expensive. Rift sawn stock can be as expensive as quater sawn.

Then I started looking at the actual prices for these kinds of white oak. The difference in price between plain & quater sawn is about $1.55 a board foot. This is a significant difference. I just couldn't justify the additional cost. So I decided that I was going to use plain sawn white oak for this cabinet. A closer examination of the wood in our dining room set convinced me that there was no quarter sawn material in the any of the pieces, so using plain sawn would actually make the new cabinet match the existing pieces better.

Next time: Buying lumber


neil said...

Hi Tony......wondering if you plan to use any sheet goods in the piece??? Back Panels?, Interior Shelves??, Bottoms??

Thinking along with ya.....Neil

Tony V said...

Hey Neil...

Yeah, I'm using ply in this piece. I think I mentioned it in the "Meet the Corner Cabinet" post. The top & bottom fixed shelves of both carcases along with the backs (essentially, everything that's parallel to a wall) will be made of ply. The adjustable shelves will be ply with solid oak edging in front. All the wood that faces out will be solid oak.

It's interesting to note that the project would probably be cheaper made from all solid wood. Plain sliced oak ply costs about $109 where I got it. I need three sheets. $327 worth of plain sawn white oak is probably more wood than I'd need to make the whole cabinet.

But then I'd have to worry about wood movement, and what with this thing's weird shape, it's not something I'm experienced enough to know how to deal with. So the ply will do.


neil said...

Tony........hey I was looking at the pretty pictures, you threw that flat panel mention at the end. Sorry about that!!!!

That's interesting about the cost of solid and flat panel. Does that include your milling cost also?? Just thinking now...would 1/2 white oak ply work in your back panels for the cabinet?? Does Condon even have it available??

Tony...really enjoying following along....excellent descriptive writing.

Tony V said...

I hadn't thought about using 1/2" in the back. It probably would work fine. Not that it matters now, as I've already got all of the materials & started cutting wood.

My last post described events that ended a little over a week ago. It's my intent to slowly bring everything up to date so my posts will be only a day or two behind the events they talk about. I've also got a bunch of pictures to post as well, but no video. Yet.

And thanks for the compliments!