Rays and Flecks in Oak

Advice on how to select Oak with or without ray and fleck figure. September 30, 2009

I was wondering if QS white oak can be found without the rays and flecks. I have a load of 200BF and more than 70% has these in it. My client was looking to try to avoid them as much as possible. Should I have gone with a rift cut instead?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor T:
The simple answer is yes if itís quartered it has fleck.

From contributor M:
Yes. Rift-sawn has straight grain without rays.

From contributor B:
Quarter sawn lumber is cut 90 degrees to the rings of the tree. That is, when you look at the butt end of the board the grain is going directly across the thickness of the board. Rift sawn lumber has the grain running at about 15 degrees off of this perpendicular direction.

Flecking shows up in white (and red) oak when the grain is perpendicular to the face of the board. When the cut is made at the rift sawn angle the stability of the board is very close to that of quarter sawn, but the angle prevents the flecking from appearing in the face of the board.

From contributor U:
If you want wood that looks like oak but without visible medullary rays use ash or American chestnut.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Quartersawn and riftsawn both have ray fleck with the fleck being more pronounced on quartersawn. The angle of the growth rings is approximately 75 to 90 degrees for q-sawn and 45 to 75 for riftsawn. It would be rare to have riftsawn alone. It is almost always sold as quarter and rift together. Nobody can sit down and measure the angles. Even then, a piece will have mixed angles, so what do you call it? Sometimes quartersawn means 45 to 90 degrees. The only way to avoid fleck is to get flatsawn.

From contributor B:
I can specify quartered or rift with most of my suppliers in New England.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
When quartered of rift is sold alone, the grader is looking for the amount of fleck and if it dominates, then it is put in the quartersawn pile and if it is limited, then rift. It is a visual appearance judgment and oftentimes is not too accurate from a technical point of view, but is very practical. Unfortunately, some operations call any piece with fleck "quatersawn" and this can be somewhat misleading if the buyer is used to the q-sawn and r-sawn differences. Bottom line is - know what the supplier or buyer is expecting as the definitions are quite variable, region to region and person to person.

From contributor B:
Thanks Gene. That explains why when we do purchase one or the other we always have to handpick the best pieces and toss the others into a pile of the other cut angle. For us with the curved mouldings it is an even more complex situation. When curved crowns etc are curving through the segment blanks that invariably changes the grain angles. If we are looking for a lot of flecking we'll usually start with flat sawn material and try to orient the rings so that they swing upward and subsequently perpendicular to the face of the moulding. Ideally this results in quarter sawn flex on the exposed face of the moulding, but it is at best a bit of a shot in the dark.