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Working with 'Grain'

'Along', 'across', 'with', 'against, 'long', 'short' grain... What's that all about?

Understanding 'grain' is of key importance to a carver. Start here.


| 21 January 2013 14:42

Ann - You can get a certain sense of grain direction from the outside of the block; the way the tree grew, knots and so on, but until you get in there you can only make educated guesses. The best approach when roughing out (or bosting) is to carve ACROSS the grain, the shaving will always fall away. You'll see me doing this in many of the projects on the site. The second bit of advice is, when carving along the grain: when in doubt, take test cuts first. The grain cannot lie 'with' and 'against' at the same time, so as Eric points out so well, react quickly and reverse your cut. There is certainly a preferred grain direction - so as to maximise strength. Again, look out for that in the projects. I'll see if I can pull together thoughts about this for a lesson in the not-too-distant future.

| 20 January 2013 16:59

As a wood worker and sometimes marine carpenter, we "run into" this issue often when planing wood, especially with curved surfaces which are always present on a boat. We train our eyes and hands to feel the grain and "scout it out" before we put the plane on the surface. It is instantly apparent when we are planing in the wrong direction and sometimes we have to switch in the middle to reverse directions as the grain "rises" to the surface. As strange as it may sound, our bodies have the same directional "grain" in the fascia that forms our structure. I do body work with my hands and "sculpt" my clients' bodies, releasing the structure to reshape their bodies. It has a directional aspect just like wood and I have to sense and feel the direction of each release at the millimeter level, like micro surgery. Life's good designs are repeated everywhere.

| 15 January 2013 07:14

I understand but I when I have a piece of compact wood like a great piece of lime wood that I have, I would have 2 questions: is there a way to SEE the with-grain direction before carving, and is there a preferred direction to use for laying out a project? Thanks

| 07 January 2013 23:39

Boy Chris, for some reason I was having the hardest time getting my head-around the whole grain thing.... this, with the aid of the straws really helped. Thank you.

| 13 April 2011 02:13

Truly a golden rule. Of all the lessons I've viewed so far, this is the Crown Jewel. As a beginning carver coming from a cabinetmaker's perspective, where you deal primarily with flat surfaces, I found this lesson to be very helpful. Thanks, Chris.

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