Why Wood Grain Matters

When it comes to wood grain most people automatically think of how it affects a deck’s appearance. Of course this is an important factor in how the wood grain will play into your decking selection, however there are other things to consider when looking at wood grains.

What is the Wood Grain?

Grain is related to a number of things, but it is technically referring to the wood-cell fiber orientation. These fibers create the figure, which is the pattern that is seen and typically thought of as the wood grain. The cellulose fibers are the remains of longitudinal cells that die and leave behind a cell wall as the tree grows. Hardwoods have special longitudinal cells called vessel elements. When vessel elements are cut it creates tiny hollows known as pores, which also affect grain.

In addition to the figure, grain has a bearing on stability, strength, hardness and feel.

Texture – Fine Grain and Coarse Grain

If you’ve been comparing different types of decking you’ve probably noticed that some woods feel smoother than others. This is a product of the grain. The texture is affected by the size and variation of the wood’s longitudinal cells as well as how they are arranged. The size and arrangement of pores also contributes to the texture of hardwood decking. In general, the smaller the cells the finer the grain of the wood will be.

Straight and Curved Grains

Grain and strength of the wood are closely related. The strength depends on the wood grain and how it’s cut (see below). When cut vertically, with the grain, the wood will be stronger.

The straighter the grain, the stronger the wood. The evenness of the grain also makes a difference – more even equals more strength.

Cut Affects the Grain

Depending on how the wood is cut, there can be numerous types of grain:

  • End grain
  • Plain grain/flat grain
  • Quarter/radial grain

The cut will definitely affect the pattern and look of the grain as well as the strength.

Open vs. Closed Grain

Hardwoods can be either open grain or closed grain. It’s the wood pores that determined if it’s open or closed grain. Larger pores are considered open grain and are visible to the naked eye. Smaller pores create a closed grain.

Closed grain wood has a smoother surface. Some open grain woods will need to have a filler applied to create a smoother, flatter finish.

Hardness and Grain Direction

Different directions of grain have a different hardness. For example, side hardness is measured by the top of the plank. So the grain even affects the hardness measurement of a wood.

Next time you’re looking at decking we’re sure you’ll see the grain in a whole new way now that you know it goes much deeper than the surface appearance.

Image Source: flickr.com/photos/aiwells

Original Source: http://timbertownaustin.com/education/why-wood-grain-matters


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