The Types of Log Cuts for Woodworking Projects

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To get a flat board to use in a woodworking project, you have to cut a round log. And you have to do so in a particular way so you can get the grain to run how you want it to. While most people don't have a saw mill to cut their own logs, you'll still want to know the difference in cuts to get the particular grain you want for your woodworking projects. The orientation of the blade in relation to the log and its growth rings determines the type of cut the board ends up with.

You can cut a log in three main ways:

  • Through and through: This type of milling involves progressively cutting the log from one side to the other (see the following figure).

    Cutting a log through and through results in a variety of boards.
    Cutting a log through and through results in a variety of boards.

    Through and through milling is the simplest and most efficient way to cut a log. Milling through and through results in plain-sawn, rift-sawn, and quarter-sawn boards because the orientation of the growth rings changes as the boards are sliced off the log.

  • Plain-sawn: Plain-sawn milling involves cutting the log from the outside to the center on all four sides. The very center of the log (the pith) is left alone. Check out the following figure to see the finished log after plain-sawing. This type of milling produces plain-sawn and rift-sawn boards.

    Plain-sawn milling results in plain-sawn and rift-sawn boards.
    Plain-sawn milling results in plain-sawn and rift-sawn boards.
  • Quarter-sawn: Quarter-sawn milling is the least efficient way to cut a log, but it produces some of the best boards. You can mill a quarter-sawn board in two ways: the preferred way (see the left side of the following figure) and the practical way (see the right side of the following figure). Unless you have a mill of your own or you own the log and have it milled to your specifications, you’re going to have to live with the practical method of quarter-sawing wood. Don’t worry, this is still a great way to mill a log, and because it’s more efficient than the “preferred” method, it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to buy (maybe just the arm).

    Quarter-sawing a log can be performed two ways: the preferred method (left) and the practical metho
    Quarter-sawing a log can be performed two ways: the preferred method (left) and the practical method (right).

    Quarter-sawn boards are more stable and attractive (to most people, anyway) than the other types of boards, but they are much more expensive. They’re also unavailable for some types of wood.


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