It’s all about the end grain.

One more reason why I yell from the rooftops about our friend Quercus alba is that he has one of the most beautiful end grain patterns I know.

Now, his ring porous way of growing makes him a real tough customer particularly for hand tool work, and it is not just a few japanese hand saws that have lost teeth to his hard/soft grain rings, and surely it can’t be often said that wood wins out over steel…

So thinking about this timber leads me into a metaphor about people, and why they say something ‘goes against the grain’. You could say that oak boards have wide generous faces, marked by lovely open grained cathedral patterns. However, it is when you look at the cross cut ends of the boards that our furniture makers of the last 300 years have spent all their time trying to hide, that you see his real nature.

The medullary ray creates a slanting crisp ivory strip through his almost crystalline lignum fibres, and it is this counterpoint of fibres that sets up his rasp like quality on your saw teeth; these tough fibres will throw a blade off track if you let it, and demand a faster resharpening of tools than most other timbers I know. (Australian eucalypts excepted okay.)

And it is an adversary that you have to respect that really teaches you the good lessons as many of us know to our chagrin. So going back to character, I think you only really get to know someone when you’ve come across their end grain so to speak…

– John

This entry was posted in Favourite images, Handtools, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to It’s all about the end grain.

  1. Sarah Beckwith says:

    Could you please use the common name as well as the Latin, or Botanical name?

    I really liked this too!

  2. Quercus alba is white oak… I reckon it might be the root for the word ‘quirky’…?

  3. Travis Dean says:

    I have never heard white oak described
    with such poetic fervor!
    If you are yelling from the roof top
    of your workshop one day and find
    a footy – its yours.
    Travis.

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