PLAIN SAWN VS. RIFT & QUARTERED

In recent years Rift & Quartered flooring in White Oak and Red Oak has become quite popular across North America.  Some like the calm straight grained look of the rift boards, while others prefer the active, interesting look of quartered.  One question that was asked is quite simple: Why does Rift & Quartered Flooring cost more than Plain Sawn?
When sawing Rift & Quartered lumber from a log you need to start with higher quality, straighter logs than when Plain Sawing.  While the log does not need to be huge, it does need to be relatively straight and have its center roughly in the center of each end of the log.  This allows the sawyer’s in the sawmill to truly split the log into 4 distinct quarters.  If not straight, you get lumber that exhibits both Rift & Quartered and Plain Sawn characteristics.  These logs are 20-50% more expensive than regular saw logs which contributes to the price difference.
  1. The manufacturing yield loss is also higher in Rift & Quartered production.  See the diagram immediately below. In today’s modern sawmills, with computer scanners, thin-kerf band saws and optimizing edgers we can recover more from a log than ever before.  When you plain saw a log like the diagram on the left, higher yields are obtained.  However, when you quarter the log there is less lumber in total because of the higher rate of cutting required to produce this type of lumber.  The mill will also saw into that center part of the log so much of that area ends up being edged off and chipped.
  2. Manufacturing costs for Rift & Quartered are higher.  When you saw like the diagram the log takes longer in the sawmill and is passed through a saw more times per board foot.  It also takes specialized equipment and more knowledgeable, better trained, higher compensated employees to properly Rift & Quarter.  All this costs money at the manufacturing facility.
  3. Drying Rift & Quarter sawn lumber takes longer.  One of the main costs of lumber drying is time.  We are constantly evaluating the drying of lumber based upon how much revenue per day a dry kiln facility can make.  While not a huge number, when 4/4 White Oak Rift & Quartered takes 34 days to dry and Plain Sawn takes 30 days, those extra days represent a cost to the kiln in terms of days it could be drying something else.  So this extra time does contribute to the additional cost of Rift & Quartered.
  4. Markets will pay more for Rift & Quartered.  We know that financially Rift & Quartered is better for our sawmills so we focus on it.
It is interesting that many areas of the world do not like Rift & Quartered like North Americans do.  In Europe lumber is sawn in a completely different fashion and often logs are simply sawn thru like a loaf of bread.  They are often producing a plain sawn look where the cathedral grain is centered in the board.  This is referred to as “live sawing” and it results in some Rift & Quartered on the edges of the boards, yet many floors in Europe expressly specify “no mirrors”, meaning no Quartered.
Without question, since it shrinks more in thickness than in width, Rift & Quartered is a superior product when the humidity changes from heating to cooling seasons.  It is simply more stable.  Rift & Quartered also gives a unique new look to many species.  LaCrosse Hardwood Flooring specializes in Rift & Quartered White Oak.  If your customer is looking for something absolutely unique, that is more stable, consider Rift & Quartered as an option.

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