Quarter-sawn wood definitely costs more than plain-sawn. Quite a bit more. That being said, it has definite advantages when it comes to your woodworking project. Let’s look at just what it means for your next project.
Plain-sawn wood is pretty cut and dried, so to speak. It involves simply cutting off slabs of a log till the log is used up. The problem with this method (though admittedly cheaper), is how the annual rings lie when you look at the cut edge. Whichever way they curve is how your board is going to want to eventually curve, or cup. Which means your entire project may very well change shape a bit.
Quarter-sawn wood is a bit more labor intensive. The log is quartered at the mill. A board is then cut from the quarter, the remaining quarter is turned and cut again until it’s used up. What you get at the end is a board with the cut edge grain perpendicular to the face rather than the curved rings in plain-sawn wood, meaning it’s going stay more in its original shape. Not only that, the face grain will look different as well. Where plain-sawn boards often have busy, sometimes flame like patterns depending on the species, quarter-sawn board grain will be straight and simple. Plus, if you are working with something like oak, you can find exposed internal rays which will give the face an almost 3D kind of appearance.
So depending on your project, quarter-sawn may be a preferred method over plain-sawn lumber. It just depends what look you are after. Quarter-sawn will definitely set you back more money-wise. But it also will have less cupping, and will expand and contract less. If you are looking for a less busy, simple straight grain this is the way to go. Plus if you are working with white or red oak, you can give your project some real depth by exposed internal rays.