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Quartersawn vs. Plainsawn Lumber

The difference between quartersawn lumber and plainsawn lumber and why it makes a difference in guitar building.


Plainsawn lumber is the most common way wood is cut and sold. You can see in the diagram attached that the boards are simply cut in strips from the log yielding the most material.


Quartersawn lumber is cut so that the growth rings of the tree as running perpendicular to the face of the boards resulting in the shortest length of growth rings. This type of cut also yields the most waste of materials.

So why is this important? Wood even after being cut and dried still absorbs moisture from the air causing it to expand(think of how your doors in your house will sometimes stick in the spring and summer). Wood will expand more along the direction of the growth rings than across. If the wood is plainsawn the growth rings can run in two directions, like a bowl shape causing the wood to cup and twist. In Quartersawn wood the growth rings are shorter and run in one direction, causing less expansion and also expansion in the same direction making the wood more stable.


In something like a guitar neck or the body of an acoustic guitar, you do not want the wood to expand unevenly. The quartersawn lumber will produce a better quality instrument that will be more stable as it is taken in and out of different weather environments.


One other aspect of quartersawn wood is that in some species of wood the medullary rays of the grain are exposed resulting in some very beautiful grain figure as seen on the cello bridge pictured.



At L. C. Guitars, I hand select the woods used for all aspects of the build and will always choose quartersawn lumber for guitar necks. If quartersawn lumber is not available for the particular species of wood that I am using, the neck will be assembled with a multi-laminate construction, essentially cutting the lumber to make it quartersawn, to provide maximum stability. I want to build you an heirloom instrument that will be handed down for generations.

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