Figured live edge slabs is an extremely common request. Wood figure refers to the shape of the grain and the pattern that the grain of wood makes. It's worth noting that though this definition is accurate, if a unique grain pattern is considered figured, then all wood is figured since no two pieces of wood are ever exactly alike
In this guide, we plan on touching on some of the most desirable wood figures our customers are looking for.
Figured Wood - A Few Common Types
When our live edge slab customers come to us looking for "figured" slabs, there are a few common grain patterns they're looking for. Below are a few:
Spalted wood - Spalting refers to black wavy streaks that appear on different woods. This is caused by natural decay of the wood. It is most common on maple slabs. Spalting makes most woods more valuable - some by quite a bit. Some wood suppliers actually have worked to perfect this natural decay on their dimensional lumber, slabs, and flooring as it makes the wood that much more desirable and profitable. Below is a picture of a spalted hackberry live edge slab.
Wormy wood - Wormholes and bug trails are also very common in hardwoods. "Wormy" maple, also known as ambrosia maple, is one of our best selling live edge slabs. We also often get cherry slabs and other hardwoods that have trails caused from different bugs, worms, and the like. Depending on the type of bug inside the wood, the patterns and trails they leave will be different. For example, ambrosia maple is caused by beetles in the wood and leaves colorful streaks throughout the wood. Below is a picture of an ambrosia maple coffee table we made.
Curly wood - Curls are common on a lot of species of wood, including maple, walnut, ash and more. This is a great feature to have on a live edge slab, but it's also extremely desirable for other furniture, instruments, and more. This is a pretty common feature and is basically the compression of the grain on wood. It gives a textured look with ripples and stripes, despite the wood being smooth. Wood curls are caused from the fact that trees don't grow straight. If all hardwood trees grew perfectly straight, the grain patterns would be straight. Since they don't, figure such as curls appear. Curls produce a 3d appearance that's caused by alternating stripes of the wood's hard and soft fibers. Below is a picture of curls on a maple live edge table.
Crotch cut wood - Crotch cut slabs refers to slabs cut where a log splits into branches. This creates a really unique wood figure on most hardwood slabs. A customer favorite is crotch-cut walnut slabs, as they have a really colorful and unique pattern once they are finished. Below is a picture of a small end table we made from a piece of crotch cut walnut wood.
A Few Other Types Of Figure
Above are the most common types of figure we get in our slab inventory, though it's far from all of the wood figures you can find.
A few other types of wood figure not mentioned include:
- Birds eye - a figure most common in hard maple. It's a pattern that has tiny swirls within the grain of the wood.
- Blister - A wood figure that has short, raised sections.
- Fiddleback - This figure is similar to blister, but typically longer.
- Quilted - Again, this figure is similar to blister, but more oval.
- Ribbon - A wood figure that resembles a slightly twisted ribbon.
- Flame - Another name for curls, especially around the crotch of the wood.
- Tiger stripe - Another name for curl or flame. Maple is commonly referred to as tiger maple when it has this figure.
- Angle step - A staircase-like figure caused by cutting wood across the stump. This is common in walnut as well as other hardwoods.
- Cat's paw - Found mostly on oak and cherry, this figure looks like a cat left footprints on the wood.
- Fleck - A figure found on sycamore, oak, and more. These show when the wood is cut parallel to the medullary rays in the wood.
- and more!
Since these aren't as common in our inventory, we recommend researching them if you'd like to learn more! A google image search will give visuals of each of the wood figures listed above!
What Causes Wood Figure?
Wood figure is caused by many different factors. Some factors that influence wood figure include:
- How the tree grows
- How the logs are cut
- Worms, beetles, and other bugs in the wood
Questions About Figured Wood?
If you have any questions regarding figured wood, I'll try to answer them to the best of my knowledge! Simply drop your questions in the comment box below and I'll respond as soon as possible!
Nolan is the Marketing Manager for Lancaster Live Edge. When he isn’t working on our marketing initiatives, he’s in the shop building tables and furniture with the team. Prior to working with Lancaster Live Edge, he worked for a digital marketing agency for nearly 4 years. His family owns a custom building company and he’s helped build everything from custom furniture to home additions. Nolan has been woodworking for nearly 20 years.