Wood -a living material
There are some expressions used to describe special grain alignments in wood. The grain in wood is something we often speak about in the luthier business. It can be a bit confusing, and one might think there is actually different spieces of wood. For example maple can be curly, birds-eye, quilted, spalted, flamed etc.
But it is still regular maple, depending on genetic heritage, environment, moisture, how it’s sawn and types of soil it has grown in has developed different kinds of grain. Below, the most common expressions that you will stumble on are explained.
Is caused by conical indentations which extend from the surface of the bark towards the center of the tree. Once started, these fiber disturbances continue in successive growth layers for the life of the tree.
This is produced by mold growth in live or cut wood, insect infestation, or various types of wood disease or rot. Sounds rather nasty but it is a feast for the eye!
The quilted effect is due to a distortion of the grain pattern the lumber must be flat sawn to produce the quilted figure.
Curly / flames
Occurs when fiber cells grow in waves. It is caused by a genetic quirk which is passed on through several generations. It occurs most frequently in maple and birch, but can appear sporadically in many other woods as well.