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By DANA SPESSERT, Chief Inspector

In this month’s article, I would like to explain some of the issues surrounding rift and quartered-cut lumber. Let me start with a couple of facts. The NHLA Rules Book does not contain the word “rift” in any context, including definitions. To my knowledge, no “official” description of rift lumber is recorded.

The hardwood industry and many end users understand rift to be straight grain within the Cuttings of the boards. The grain’s angle to the board’s face is typically 30 to 60 degrees, with 45 degrees considered optimal. In comparison, quartered lumber is typically 60 to 90 degrees, with 90 degrees being optimum, as this is where the fleck (or rays) are shown on the face.

As hardwood market prices fluctuate, like they always do, sawmills look for opportunities to increase profits—as they should. One of those areas is the way in which they saw logs to create different grain patterns, in this case, rift and quartered.

There are many companies that specialize in rift and quartered lumber. Their mills are able to cut the logs into quarters and saw them the traditional way, which produces virtually all boards with a rift or quartered grain.

When NHLA gets involved in issues with rift and quartered disputes, we have guidance within the Rules Book. Although there is no official definition of rift, in the 2023 NHLA Rules Book, on page 10, paragraph 35, under the heading of “Quartered Lumber,” it states:

“In species where figure is not required, pieces shall be considered quartered when 80% of the surface of the required cuttings in the aggregate shows the radial grain at an angle of 45˚ or less with one face.”

When an Inspector is grading for “Quartered Lumber,” they will not be looking at the end of the board to determine the grain pattern; they will be looking for Clear Face Cuttings, size, and the number of Cutting Units, to establish the grade. After selecting the grade, they will determine if the Cuttings contain a radial grain of at least 80%, which would fall under the Rule stated above. The entire Cutting does not need to show the radial or straight grain to be considered rift or quartered in the species that does not require figure or “fleck.”

For Oak, specifically, the Rule is on page 27, under the heading of “Quarter Sawn Red Oak, White Oak, and Locust” it states:

“90% of one face of the required cutting area in the aggregate shall show figure.”

In the above statement, the Inspector will determine the grade, then look for figure or “fleck” (cross-section of the rays), and to consider the board to be “Quarter Sawn,” each Cutting needs to show 90%. If the Cuttings have less than 90% figure or “fleck” (cross-section of the rays), then they would call it “Rift” (radial grain) provided it meets the requirements stated on page 10, paragraph 35.

If you have any questions please reach out to me at d.spessert@nhla.com or 901-399-7551.