These various cuts change the visual grain pattern and affect the dimensional stability of each board. The advantage for rift & quarter sawn, other than visual appearance, is dimensional stability over plain sawn.
Quarter Sawn wood has a straight grain and visually displays the figure from the medullary rays, or fleck, in the face of the board. It is defined when the annual growth rings are 60 to 90 degrees to the face of the board. This is the most stable board, as environmental changes will be in the thickness of the board, not across the width.
Rift Sawn is cut in the same process as Quarter Sawn, which creates the straight grain like the quarter-sawn but without displaying the medullary rays. Rift is defined when the annual growth rings are 30 to 60 degrees to the face of the board. Rift Sawn is a very durable flooring option.
Plain Sawn, also commonly called flat sawn, is the most common lumber. The face of the board will show the cathedral growth rings. It is defined when the annual growth rings are 0 – 30 degrees to the face of the board. This creates a board that will expand or contract across the board’s width (tangentially) with environmental changes.
Live Sawn is a result of straight cutting through smaller logs. They will display a mix of plain sawn and rift & quarter sawn characteristics throughout each board. This flooring cut is popular due to its stability, long lengths, economical price, and attractive natural features.