Quartersawn Versus Rift Sawn Oak Veneer

Detailed explanations of what makes the difference, and how to find what you need. March 26, 2007

A project of mine is to be built of quartersawn white oak. I gave a finished sample to the designer for his client. She loves it. Another cabinetmaker is to build a matching office around my piece, but claims it will not match because he is using quartersawn veneer. The veneer will not show any rays or flecks. The quartersawn oak VC plywood I have around my shop is this way, no rays or flecks. Just very tight linear grain. What gives?

Forum Responses
(Veneer Forum)
From contributor F:
I think you are correct. Any so-called quartered white oak veneer I have seen has been rift sawn. The only thing I can assume is there must be a reason for it.

From contributor G:
I always thought quarter sawn and rift cut meant the same thing. Oh well - I've been wrong before.

From contributor D:
The hardwood ply is usually lower grade face cuts of what is left after cherry-picking with the raw veneers. Notice how the panels are not center matched or an even number of leaves to get the 48". Contact a reputable raw veneer seller of these two cuts and you will find that the Q/S is usually described as light, medium or heavy flake. The rift will have no flake or ray exposed. Since these terms are arbitrary, you either deal with good dealers that you learn to trust, or go look at the stuff first - sometimes it is best to do both.

From contributor J:
Rift only applies to red and white oak. It is a straight grain look with no flake. Quartered is straight grain with different degrees of flake. They are 2 totally different cuts. Quartered veneer is cut to expose the entire medullary ray; this is the "flake." Rift does not expose the entire ray, only the ends of it.

From contributor R:
Plain sawn lumber has growth rings that are less than 30 orientation to the surface of the board. This produces the indistinct oak grain pattern that you typically see in cabinets and less expensive furniture and flooring.

Rift lumber is lumber whereby the growth rings are 30 to 60 orientation to the board surface which produces vertical grain that is often mistaken for true quartersawn.

Quartered sawing produces lumber whereby the growth rings are positioned at a 60 to 90 angle to the board surface.

From contributor T:
Contributor R has it right! The most common way to mill q-s is to quarter the log and slice the segments. In lumber only the two center boards will be true q-s. As the cuts get farther from the center of segment, they are more rift-sawn. In veneer, more sheets from the center will be q-s. A full flitch will have and display full flakes in the true q-s and diminishing flakes as the cuts proceed away from the center of the quarter.

From contributor C:
As a retail lumber dealer, we buy semi loads of rift and quartered oak, much cheaper than straight quartered. We then hand sort after surfacing for rift, and quartered. It is a one side grading only.

Veneer can be purchased quartered heavy flake and can be purchased rift. Problem with some veneer dealers is that quartered heavy flake may not have flake on the whole sheet.

From contributor L:
I have built a few custom cabinet jobs in quarter sawn white oak. In my shop, quarter sawn has ray fleck. I order my veneers from Oakwood Veneer Co out of Berkley Mi. They offer light, med, and heavy fleck. I mostly order the medium. This is easier to match the hardwoods to. Also, the heavy seems to have more tear out in it. If you need rift sawn, they have that too.

From contributor E:
Quarter and rift cut are very close. The difference is a few degrees orientation to the knife.

Quarter slicing achieves a straight grain appearance by slicing perpendicular to the annual growth rings.

Rift-cut veneer is produced from the various species of oak. Oak has medullary ray cells which radiate from the center of the log like the curved spokes of a wheel. This straight grain cut is at a slight angle to the medullary rays in oak to minimize ray fleck (flake).

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor S:
Quarter sawn is cut 45 degrees to the center of the log and rift is cut at 22 degrees.