Almost all boards you buy at a timber merchant will be through or flat-sawn as it’s known across the pond. They’re the cheapest to produce and in most cases are fine to use. The downside to using them for furniture is that they are less stable and more likely to cup and twist. When drying, a log will shrink 3 times as much tangetially (around the circumference) as across its width. This is why it’s normal to see a log with splits in it. The force pulling along the outside curve is 3 times the force pulling the log inwards – so it splits as it dries. When planks are through-cut the same process repeats, but its not as extreme to cause splits – but instead the planks tend to cup outwards from the centre due to the largest/ longest rings pulling the plank edges upwards. Through-Sawn – For daytime playlist radio listeners and general lovers of pop.
There is a little confusion between the terms rift-sawing and quartersawing. Having done a lot of research into this, it seems that North Americans generally refer to quarter-sawing as rift-sawing – here in the UK we call it the other way round. Rift-sawn planks are generally produced in the process of both through and quarter-sawn cutting, rather than specifially for their cut. Rift-Sawn: Pop/ rock with a cool character twist – Depeche Mode.. Pulp.
The best quarter-sawn boards are between 70deg – 90deg – they are truly stunning cuts of timber, they shrink less and are far more stable than the other cuts particularly when air-dried. The planks also show a very different character face, featuring a tight close grain, and in the case of oak and plane, the flecks and veins displayed from the medulary rays are very pronounced and are often jaw-droppingly beautiful. The majority of our timber is quarter-sawn, as we always aim to produce the finest quality timber possible. Quarter-sawn: The daddy of vinyl cuts. This is your Led Zep, your Stevie Wonder, Beatles, Radiohead – the best of the best.
Sometimes also called live edge – these are the cuts of timber with one or both edges on the outside of the log, and often with bark. We tend to keep quite a good stock of these as they are very popular for shelves, coffee tables etc. Species like Yew and Sycamore are often selected for their pronounced waney edges – Yew in particular also has a very distinctive feature between the white outer sapwood and the red inner heartwood – and this when married to a waney edge produces a mouthwatering combination. Cool Jazz we reckon – Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington.
Anyone who likes the look of re-claimed timber with all its splits and shakes will also love our character timber. One of the most exciting parts of the air-drying process is the first cut through the middle of the log as this tells you which way it wants to be cut. This can reveal any number of things – whether there’s rot degradation, the condition of the prized heartwood, the beauty marks like spalting (bacterial lines) and pippy grain (mini branch growths that look like catpaw prints), and also branch spurs, splits and stains. Of course as we’re dealing with London timber, this is also the home of bomb shrapnel, nails, wire and even the occasional lord Lucan. All these scars and growths start to tell a fascinating story of the life of the tree and its surroundings. A lot of London trees would have started their life in a semi-rural hedgerow or side of a field in the 1800’s, and as the capital grew in size those trees would end up towering over streets and squeezed between blocks of flats. Character Timber: Radio 6 after 8pm – Iggy, The Cardiacs, The Beta Band.