Besides the unique look of each species of wood, the appearance of your hardwood floor is also determined by the grade and cut of wood.
Simply put, Wood Grade refers to how much (or how little) of the natural characteristics of real hardwood flooring such as knots, wood tone variation, mineral streaks, etc appear in your floor. Grades range from a Clear Grade that is very uniform and consistent to a Rustic Grade grade that contains a beautiful array of character.
For many of our Pre-Finished Hardwood Flooring Products, you will notice that we simplified the grades into two categories, Premium and Natural
Wood Cutting Styles
The type of wood cut is determined by the angle at which a board is cut from the log. There are three cuts of wood: Plain sawn (AKA Flat sawn), Quarter sawn, and Rift Sawn and each cut produces a board of a different appearance and quality.
Plain Sawn: The most common cut is plain sawn. The log is squared and sawed lengthwise in a series of parallel cuts. The annual growth rings appear as approximately straight lines on the board, joining at the end to form a “cathedral arch.” Because of this arch, plain sawn boards are often considered the most beautiful of the cuts. These boards are ideal for large visual areas like whole floors, tabletops, drawer fronts, sides of dressers or other similar projects. Plain sawn boards are the least expensive of the three cuts as they are the least labor-intensive to produce and leave the least waste.
Quarter sawn boards are created by first cutting a log into quarters and then making a series of parallel cuts perpendicular to the tree's rings, cutting on the radius. The grain in quarter sawn wood is relatively consistent and the growth rings (grain) will be at a 60-90-degree angle in the profile of the flooring plank. This also makes quarter sawn boards less likely to bow, warp or twist than plain sawn. This makes it a good choice for floors being placed in high traffic areas.*The unique trait of quarter sawn boards is the ray flecks. Ray flecks appear in flooring that cuts across the wood’s ray cells, which creates a shimmering flake figure spread over the wood.
The third cut is rift sawn. In this cutting method, the log is still quartered, and then cut as you see on the right and in the video below. As the cuts get closer to the outside of the log the angle of the grain changes to 30-60 degrees and reducing the amount of ray fleks appearing in the wood. This makes it easy to match boards for a uniform appearance.
The following video is a great demonstration of the Quartersawn process created by a fellow Hoosier company called Frank Miller Lumber Co.
Plain Sawn (Flat Sawn)
Rift and Quartered