Can you tell just from looing if a maple neck is quartersawn?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jeremy5000, Dec 30, 2012.


  1. Jeremy5000

    Jeremy5000

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    Feb 25, 2008
    From looking at the back of a neck is there something in the grain pattern or some giveaway - or maybe something else that a luthier's eye would notice that I haven't thought to look for?
    Thanks for any advice, I love learning...
  2. Beej

    Beej

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    Feb 10, 2007
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    Canadia
    In a word, yes. If the end grain is oriented vertically (perpendicular to the fingerboard), it's likely quartersawn, or at least is the pith cut of the flitch. Pith is the centre of the tree, and a flitch is a sawn log. The centre board when cut, has it's grain oriented perpendicular to the cut, and so the entire centre board is in effect quartersawn. Genuinely quarter sawing is pretty rare these days as it wastes a lot of lumber, but it is still done depending on the log. If you have a pic, someone can tell you right away if it's quartersawn...
  3. Jeremy5000

    Jeremy5000

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    Feb 25, 2008
    So I think what you're describing is what is most commonly seen at the heel of the neck, (in that case not quartersawn).
    Correct assumption?
  4. Beej

    Beej

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    Yep, the heel would be a good place to check. If it's a fender, they are usually flatsawn not quarter...
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  6. Jeremy5000

    Jeremy5000

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    Feb 25, 2008
    Thanks Beej,
    I'll follow up with some image searches...
  7. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

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    Location:
    Norman, OK
    [​IMG]

    Disclaimer: Flatsawn does not necessarily mean the grain runs horizontally. More often, it doesn't, but it also doesn't run vertically.
  8. Jeremy5000

    Jeremy5000

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    Feb 25, 2008
    Thanks Hammerhed!
    But couldn't flat sawn wood just be turned on its side to make the grain look that way? (running up and down)
  9. Jeremy5000

    Jeremy5000

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    Feb 25, 2008
    Oh wait so flat sawn wood in this view would never run vertically? Sorry, confused now.
  10. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

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    Have a look at this:

    [​IMG]

    Plain sawn = flat sawn.

    Quarter and rift are the most wasteful, and flat is the most economical.
  11. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

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    Oct 20, 2007
    Draw a circle, then draw two perpendicular lines through the center. Draw a pair of lines close to each center-line. The circle represents a log and the lines parallel to the center-lines represents the only truly quarter-sawn boards. Anything else may be close, especially if the log is huge, but not really "quarter-sawn", even though there's a range that is considered to be called that. Flat sawn is usually from cutting boards that are perpendicular to the center lines and not through the actual center. Rift cut is another way to saw lumber and it has the benefits of flat-sawing AND quarter-sawing- wood shrinks across the rings and not much along them, so a board that is rift cut will shrink less across the width and thickness of a neck. It can, however, shrink diagonally to the center-line of the instrument and that may cause twisting of the wood. It's one of the reasons multi-piece necks are made, although both of my Fender guitars are one-piece necks. They're so similar that they look like they may have come from the same tree, but the Strat is almost 20 years older than the Tele.

    Here's a link that shows different cuts-
    http://www.wooden-box-maker.com/milling-lumber.html
  12. Jeremy5000

    Jeremy5000

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    Feb 25, 2008
    Ahh, so if looking at the heel of a neck the grain would almost always be "tighter" with quarter, (you would never see it arched or very wide), -yes?
  13. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

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    Oct 20, 2007
    A flitch is a group of consecutive boards, cut from the same log but I guess it could be a partial log, too.
  14. Beej

    Beej

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    Well technically a flitch is a sliced side of pork belly, but for us it's better to use the woodworkers terminology. :)

    Yeah, I should have clarified that it refers to the log's boards being sawn and kept together, but I think if we get even more technical it refers to a board intact from the bole or log...
  15. iamlowsound

    iamlowsound

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    I just took a nice flat sawn log, cut, turned and glued. I then had a three piece neck with the same grain orientation as quarter sawn.

    lowsound
  16. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

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    ^^ And probably stronger.
  17. iamlowsound

    iamlowsound

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    That too.

    lowsound
  18. Teacher

    Teacher

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    May 3, 2012
    The diagram above is slightly misleading. To those not familiar with the terms, it makes it look like the term refers to the way the boards are cut. It doesn't. In the "plain sawn" diagram, most of the board feet would be considered flat sawn, but some would be considered rift sawn, and the ones in the center would be considered quarter sawn. It's all about grain orientation on the broad side of the board:

    closer to 0 degrees = flatsawn (see right-hand neck heel above)

    closer to 45 degrees = rift sawn

    closer to 90 degrees = quarrtersawn (see left nneck heel in photo above)
  19. Konquest

    Konquest

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    Wisconsin
    You guys are correct re: reading the end grain, but with maple the easiest giveaway is the "fleck ray" on the face of the board to indicate that it's quartersawn. It's a kind of "beeswing" pattern. Do a google image search of quartersawn sycamore for a much more pronounced example. Maple is kind of subtle, but has the same effect.
  20. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

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    And once again, we have run into the conflict between what flatsawn, rift sawn, and quarter sawn mean in common parlance to wood buyers, and what they mean to a sawyer.
  21. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro

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    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Yup. As the terms suggest, they refer to the way the log is sawn. Hammered's image is accurate.

    The terms have been overloaded (for all you programmers out there). People have come to refer to quartersawn as "rings perpendicular to the face" and flatsawn "rings parallel to the face" because those are the cutting methods that tend to maximize those types of lumber. I have no idea how rift sawn came to mean 45 degrees. With guitar necks, it's perpendicular [parallel] to the direction which the neck will flex under tension.

    To the OP's question - maple exhibits a "ray fleck" pattern on radial surfaces (those where rings are perpendicular). This would allow you to tell whether a neck or fingerboard is quartersawn (roughly) without seeing the endgrain.

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