Table made from quarter-sawn mahogany wood with ribbon figuring

Grain and Figure are often used interchangeably, as they are like two sides of a coin.

Grain is the orientation of the fibers that make up a piece of wood as it is cut from a log.

  • Flatsawn (annular rings run roughly parallel to board faces).
  • Quartersawn (annular rings run perpendicular to board faces).
  • Riftsawn (annular rings run 30 to 60 degrees to board faces).

Figure is the pattern that the wood's grain displays when cut from different sections of a log.

  • Vertical and/or Straight: Relatively straight grain lines created by a quartersawn or riftsawn cut from a log.
  • Cathedral: Arched grain lines achieved when a log is flatsawn.
  • Flake: Flake-like appearance that occurs in a quartersawn piece of wood when the species has large medullary rays. Seen dramatically in white oak and red oak and to a lesser degree in riftcut lumber.
  • Curly: Pattern created when a tree has twisted grain fibers.
  • Fiddleback: A pattern of twisted grain fibers that are exposed across the surface of a board. Most often found in maple.