Understanding the Science and Anatomy of Wood

Can you call yourself a wood scientist? Success in woodworking depends heavily on understanding the nature of wood, a once living material. Trees are living, breathing plants, meaning the wood that comes from them is made up of cells known as rays and vessels. These permeable components are what allow trees to take in carbon dioxide and nutrients and release byproducts. The rays are the cells that radiate from the center of a tree to its perimeter, and the vessels are the cells that extend parallel to the wood grain.

When building wooden furniture or structural supports, the fact that these rays and vessels cause wood to move (expand and shrink) is tectonic to the finished piece’s durability. Considering how the lumber is sawed from the log is critical as well because this affects the orientation of the growth rings. A quartersawn piece of lumber will expand and shrink less than a flatsawn one. These factors are why frame-and-panel construction, breadboard ends and mortise-and-tenon joinery are so effective.

Refer to the “All About Wood Science” article by Matt Berger on finewoodworking.com to read more about the nature of wood. Once you have master wood science, come to Schutte Lumber for all of your woodworking supply needs.


Photo by Brendan DeBrincat.