Learn More About the Different Types of Wood Grain

Learn More About the Different Types of Wood Grain


There are many different types of wood grains, and each has its own unique look and feel. Wood grains can be used to create beautiful flooring or to enhance the appearance of other wood products. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at some of the most popular wood grain types and show you how to identify them. So, if you're interested in learning more about this topic, keep reading!

What Are Wood Grains?

Wood grains are the result of different cell sizes in the various regions of a tree trunk. The largest cells are found near the center of the tree, where they help to support the weight of the trunk and branches. The smaller cells are found on the tree's outer layer, where they help to protect the tree from insects and disease. The different cell sizes create a distinctive grain pattern that is unique to each type of wood.

Factors Influencing Wood Grains

  • Natural wood imperfections such as knots
  • Tree growth
  • Cutting methods
  • Wood species
  • The pores of the tree
  • Burls
  • Infections

What Are the Most Common Wood Grain Types?

Open vs Closed Grains

Open Grain

Open grain refers to hardwoods with large pores. An open grain is characteristic of trees that develop quicker in the spring and slower in the summer, resulting in variation in cell arrangement. Consequently, the grain patterns in these woods are typically stronger and more prominent.
Oak and ash are two popular open-grained woods. The patterns in these woods give off a natural, homey, and rustic aesthetic. 

Closed Grain

Other hardwood species have smaller pores that do not fluctuate in size as much — they are classified as closed grain.  These varieties of wood often have a straight grain due to tighter growth rings.
This gives the wood a more subtle, simple, and cleaner look that might function in a more polished and sleek space. Closed-grained hardwoods include maple wood, as well as several varieties of fruit woods, such as cherry, which works well in Scandinavian-style interiors.

Wood Grain Patterns

Flat Grain

Flat grains are fiber groupings that run parallel to the plank's face in streaks. Woodworkers make this arrangement by cutting a tree at a right angle from its middle rings. This procedure produces the clean and uniform patterns that are popular among those seeking elegant floor designs.

Curly Grain

Curly grains are woodcuts from trees that developed in an unusual or twisted manner. These trees generate wavy and spiral marks regardless of how they are cut. They are most often derived from maple and walnut trees.

Straight Grain

Straight grains look a bit similar to flat grains, however, they are cut differently. They result from woodworkers slicing from the center outward. This method produces vertical cuts from the tree's central ring. Straight-grained planks last longer because they have more fiber layers.

Interlocked Grain

Interlocked grain develops when spiral-grained trees switch directions and spiral back and forth across the trunk, switching between right-hand and left-hand swirls. This shift in grain direction is most evident on quarter-sawn boards, which have a ribbon stripe appearance. 

Irregular Grain

This is a wood grain that spirals or twists abnormally. Irregular grain may be caused by a variety of causes, including knots, burls, and big branches detaching from the trunk.

Less Common Grain Patterns

  • Bird's eye - This is typically seen in maple trees. It features a peculiar visual pattern of small, bird-like eyes on the grain of the wood.
  • Burl - This sort of shape is generated by a distorted, wart-like growth on the trunk or a branch of a tree as a consequence of damage or infection. This results in an extremely distinctive wavy grain pattern. It is often found in walnut, ash, European Elm, and poplar trees.
  • Crotch - A Y-shaped pattern formed when a branch connects to a tree trunk, and it is most typically found in mahogany and walnut species.
  • Fiddleback - Fiddleback is a maple characteristic in which the grain appears wavy and flame-like. This style is in great demand for musical instruments.
  • Ribbon curl - A glittering, slightly twisted ribbon look that is seen in species such as mahogany.
  • Quilted - A bubble-like pattern seen in maple wood that creates a three-dimensional look.
  • Tiger stripe - This is a kind of valued color variation that is often seen in oak. It is produced by a fungal infection in a live tree, which results in darker streaks.

Different Sawing Methods and Their Grains

Live Sawn: Vertical Grain

This approach cuts straight through the log. On the borders, a vertical grain is evident, while the inside has a variety of patterns. This technique of cutting planks is often used for flooring. 

Quarter-sawn: Closed Grain

Logs are cut at an angle of 60 degrees to 90 degrees to expose their growth rings. This results in vertical and tight grain patterns, and it often creates striking flecking.

Plain sawn: Cathedral Grain

The plain-sawn cutting method is used by the majority of sawyers. The wood is cut at a 45-degree angle to display the yearly growth rings. The process often results in a cathedral grain pattern.

Rift sawn

Rift-sawn woodcuts have angles ranging from 30 to 60 degrees. This cut reduces grain activity and is used to cut wood for flooring.

The Link Between Wood Grain and Workability

Straight grain woods are the simplest to work with and provide dependable, consistent results. Timbers with an interlocking, irregular grain, on the other hand, are more prone to splitting and cracking.  As a result, while working with them, additional expertise, effort, and attention may be required.

When it comes to finishing, open-grained woods have a more uneven takeup, which enhances the grain. And those with tight, closed grains, such as cherry and maple, finish more smoothly.

Wood grains can be beautiful and unique, adding character to any space they occupy. Whether you are a DIY enthusiast or a professional contractor, it’s important to understand the different types of wood grain in order to select the best material for your project. We hope this article has helped you learn more about the different grains and how they can affect your work. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions!