Grain direction and its relationship to cutting tools is one of those mysteries most beginner woodworkers struggle with. If your tools are sharp and you’re cutting with the grain, your woodworking experience will be an enjoyable one. More often than not however, novice woodworkers end up frustrated by ugly tearout that can ruin an otherwise prized piece of hardwood.

In this short video, Fine Woodworking executive art director Michael Pekovich demystifies grain direction. Once a woodworker understands how grain direction works, milling wood—be it with modern machinery or a trusty old handplane—will become a breeze.