Yankee Drills


Tools and Woods with Bob Smalser

  Ring Count 1 of 2  

Hi Bob, Could you possibly create a post explaining why and how tight ring counts improve lumber qualities? I know that tight ring counts are preferred, but why is it better?

My pleasure… it’s really quite simple, looking at a close-up of the growth rings.

In early spring the wood grows quickly with large, thin-walled cells…”earlywood”…seen as the lighter colored portion of the growth ring. As the season progresses and growth factors such as light, temperature, nutrients and water become more limiting, the cells get smaller, thicker-walled, denser and more resinous…”latewood”…seen as the darker portion of the growth ring.

You can actually see the cells get smaller in the photo as they darken. Smaller, denser cells with more natural resins are stronger…and a higher proportion of them in the wood makes for stronger and more durable timber…significantly stronger and more durable timber. Even in the tropics there is usually some limiting factor to create latewood…like an annual dry season…and it is the rare tree that doesn’t show some sort of growth ring.

But it also helps to understand something of how the tree grows… many folks think of growth rings in three-dimensional form as cylinders, but they are really cones as shown above. That’s useful to understand when ripping bending stock from wood originally milled from a cant as most sawmills do…there is almost always some grain run-out in straight, sawn boards that should be identified before selecting stock for bending.

That’s why riven or split boards like the Vikings’ early lapstrake planking are almost always stronger than sawn boards, and for most store-bought wood, boards milled from nearer the pith will have less grain runout.

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