Understanding Figure in Wood
How it happens, what to call it and how to work it
Synopsis: Woodworking might be a lot easier if all wood were straight-grained, uniform, and easy to work. But it would be a lot less interesting. Highly figured wood offers a unique beauty and a challenge that few can resist. What causes one tree to have uniform grain and the other to have a wild and beautiful fiddleback pattern? Tom Schrunk, who works extensively with exotic grain, gives a primer on figure — the types, the causes, and the challenges it presents. This article includes definitions and origins of different figure types such as crotch, ray fleck, spalting, stump or butt, bird’s eye, blister or quilt, burl, curly, tiger, fiddleback, mottled, bee’s wing, pommele, plum pudding, and ribbon-stripe.
Imagine woodworking without any figured woods: no bird’s-eye maple, no crotch mahogany, no walnut burl, no curly cherry—just foot after board foot of straight-grained, uniform wood. sure, life would be easier: straight-grained…