Flat Sawn vs. Quarter Sawn Lumber

Before hardwood products ever make it to your deck, house or boat, a decision must first be made on how to cut the lumber. There are three ways that the lumber can be cut: flat sawn, rift sawn, and quater sawn.

Flat Sawn Rift Sawn Quarter Sawn Lumber Illustrations

Flat Sawn  |  Rift Sawn  |  Quarter Sawn

Each method makes a difference in the appearance of the wood grain and its durability. For this article, we’re going to focus on the flat sawn and quarter sawn techniques (since they are more common). Here are the basics of the flat sawn and quarter sawn methods to help you make a decision on which is the best for you.

flat sawn ipe deckingFlat Sawn Ipe Decking

Flat Sawn

This is the most common method, also known as plain sawn. This method has minimal waste and also showcases a “cathedral” look of annual rings. This look is the result of the annular rings being 45 degrees or less to the face of the board (known as tangential grain).

Flat sawn lumber is the most inexpensive option because it is the easiest to obtain. Generally 60-70% of the lumber from a log is flat sawn. The rest is quarter sawn or somewhere in between. This makes flat sawn more widely available and therefore cheaper. Logs can be cut to produce more quarter sawn but the yield from the log is lower and therefore more expensive. 

Overall, the flat sawn boards are popular for a reason — they are easy to come across and are more cost-effective than other cuts. If you’re looking for a solid cut that won’t go over-budget, you can’t go wrong by choosing the flat sawn method.


quarter sawn teak deckingQuarter Sawn Teak Decking

Quarter Sawn

The quarter sawn method is a little bit more costly. However, it’s also more dimensionally stable than the flat sawn boards. Just as the name suggests, quarter sawn lumber is cut into four quarters and then cut using the plain sawn method. The process overall is more time intensive, but it creates a unique pattern that stands out against the plain sawn lumber.

While quarter sawn boards are more expensive, they are going to hold paint better and wear more evenly on the surface. In addition, when it comes to abosorbing moisture, quarter sawn boards expand more in thickness than flat sawn boards. This causes the boards to be more stable than flat sawn boards (which expand more in width when abosrbing moisture).

Quarter sawn lumber is a little harder to find, but it’s worth it if you’re willing to spend a little more money on a more stable board that boasts unique designs.

What should you choose?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a cut for your hardwood. If you’re more concerned about budget and availability, plain sawn lumber will be the best choice. However, if you want a board that will withstand more moisture and has a more interesting design, you will want to consider the quarter sawn lumber. We suggest visiting your nearest hardwood distributor and seeing the boards for yourself before you make a decision.

Have any more questions about flat sawn vs. quarter sawn lumber? Give us a call at 1-800-999-7616.

Posted in Teak, Ipe, Marine, Teak Decking, Hardwood Decking, Siding & Soffits, Millwork, Outdoor Living, Technical Data | Leave a comment

Houston Zoo Elephant Walk

Over the years zoos around the world have evolved from cramped, unnatural shelters to more natural, larger enclosures with water features, native plants, and built-in enrichment areas to provide the animals with physical and mental stimulation. In addition to being a more pleasing environment for the animals, it also creates a more beautiful, spacious environment for human visitors.

The Houston Zoo recently upgraded its Asian elephant enclosure and included a stunning Ipé walkway with observation platforms and seating. Forney Construction, based in Houston, was awarded the project as general contractor, and they in turn hired Sparq 1200, a visual environment specialist, as subcontractor. Sparq 1200, relying on previous experience, knew Overseas Hardwoods Company was easy to work with and provided the highest quality product.

 Sparq 1200 had a vision for how to economically complete the walkway and hired House Partners Architecture, an Ipé-installation expert, to install it. OHC came onsite for a consultation and suggested some changes which enabled Sparq 1200 to cut costs and save money. John Bone, President and Owner of Sparq 1200, commented, “Working with OHC was great; they understand dynamics of large commercial jobs and react to stay ahead of the game.” OHC exotic hardwoods are ideal for public spaces thanks to their durability and lifespan; they’re an excellent economical choice considering how long they last, even in high-traffic areas.

The zoo expansion doubled the size of the elephant enclosure, adding a 7,000 square-foot barn for the bull elephants, a 160,000 gallon pond with a state-of-the-art filtration system, and of course, the Ipé walkway. 

The walkway itself meanders around the perimeter of the enclosure, with two elevations, creating an auditorium-like area where visitors can sit or stand to enjoy the elephants. Sparq 1200’s creative design was approved for the shade structure, made of overlapping Ipé squares comprising a pyramid shape, to provide a cooler observation spot on a hot summer day. Additional skirting around the bottom of the walkway was also crafted from Ipé.

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Ipé was chosen both for its long lifespan and its beauty. It can withstand the hot Texas sun with stability and without splitting or splintering, and it naturally resists insect attacks, rot and decay near the water features.

The walkway must stand up against the thousands of visitors it receives each day. To provide traction, OHC machined a 1 3/16” line into every other board to create an anti-skid traction area, keeping everyone safe, from small children to elderly visitors and everyone in between. John Bone again praised OHC, noting that “OHC’s processing capabilities enable us to have precise machining for the traction groove, saving time and creating a very consistent result.”

OHC lumber is a win for the zoo, creating a safe, beautiful and long-lasting habitat for the elephants and humans, and a win for the project’s contractors. In fact, Fortney Construction and Sparq 1200 had such a good experience that they’ll be utilizing OHC hardwoods for several upcoming major public space projects.

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In 1986 a Brazilian industrialist had a dream to build a three-masted staysail schooner. Handsome, powerful, and iconic, Peacemaker (originally christened Avany) was built by hand, using traditional methods, on a riverbank in southern Brazil. Built from the finest tropical hardwoods, including the highly desirable Brazilian hardwood Ipe, this ship stood out amongst more modern-looking boats.  



In 2000 a religious group bought Avany and spent the next seven years replacing all of the ship’s mechanical and electrical systems and rigging it as a barquentine, which is essentially a tall ship with three or more masts, with a square rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main.


In the spring of 2007 the refurbished vessel set sail under the new name, Peacemaker. Since that initial voyage in 2007 Peacemaker has been sailing around the world teaching young people valuable seamanship, navigation, sailing and boat maintenance skills. It’s also been used as an event space and a dockside attraction from Ontario, Canada to Brazil.


In 2013, while on a voyage north from Brazil, Peacemaker found itself in need of hull repairs, and based on the word-of-mouth recommendations from seamen in the know, her captain docked in Mobile Bay to avail himself of Overseas Hardwoods Company’s unparalleled selection and service.


OHC invited the captain to select the specific 4”x12”x22’ long Ipe planks needed to make the hull repairs. After a short two weeks Peacemaker was once again seaworthy and as commanding as ever. There’s no doubt that anyone needing an exotic hardwoods supplier will be equally satisfied by the exceptional service, quality, and sheer volume of board feet OHC has available.

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Nina repairs

Ask any American what he or she learned about Christopher Columbus’ arrival at the Americas and you’ll likely hear two things. First, in the year of 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Second, his three ships were the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.



The names of the ships evoke visions of billowing white sails, towering masts, and salty ocean spray. Textbook illustrators have offered drawings of these ships, but one ambitious and creative team decided to recreate the ships for a more immersive, living experience.


In 1986 the Columbus Foundation formed in the British Virgin Islands with the idea to recreate the vessels that arrived on American shores in 1492. The Niña was built in the fishing village of Valenca, Brazil, by expert shipbuilders using only hand tools such as axes, adzes, hand saws and chisels.


An American engineer and maritime historian joined local shipwrights known for using a traditional 15th-century shipbuilding technique likely used by the Spanish builders of the original ships. The Niña was launched in 1992 and is known to be the most authentic reproduction ever built.


In 2005 the foundation launched their second reproduction, the Pinta. The Pinta is a faithful reproduction of the original, except 15 feet longer and eight feet wider, to accommodate more visitors at one time.


There are currently no plans to build a reproduction Santa Maria as it had a larger draft, making it too large to navigate some of waterways in which the Niña and the Pinta sail.


These two ships currently operate as a touring maritime museum, sailing ten months of the year to different ports from Mobile Bay, AL to Clinton, IA and a multitude of other ports from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast to the Great Lakes and the Midwestern River System.


In 2010 the Niña suffered some damages caused by a cooking fire. Her captain, Morgan Sanger, heard from trusted sources that Overseas Hardwoods Company had Ipe lumber in all the sizes he needed, so he docked the Niña in Mobile Bay. Captain Sanger selected the best material for repairs including 6x6 timbers and a large quantity of 8/4 lumber.


Since 2010 the Niña and the Pinta have sailed to Mobile Bay every two years on their way north via the Midwestern River System. Their captains know that if their vessels require any further repairs, OHC will be able to provide them with the highest quality Ipe for every possible board length required.

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5 Rivers Delta Experience

There’s a spot in Alabama where the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley rivers converge into the Mobile Bay, fusing freshwater and marine ecosystems. The state of Alabama created a remarkable facility, 5 Rivers, Alabama’s Delta Resource Center, in an effort to preserve the hundreds of plant and animal species and create a recreational paradise for its citizens.


5 Rivers attracts visitors for its wealth of activities in the 250,000+ acres of picturesque waterways, wetlands, and woods. In addition to outdoor activities like kayaking, canoeing, hiking, nature cruising, and birdwatching, the Center is also home to a beautiful theater, convention center, classrooms, exhibit hall and gift shop.


5 Rivers decided to build several new structures to maximize access to nature for its many visitors. They called upon Overseas Hardwoods Company to create beautiful, durable, and cost-effective walkways, piers, nesting platforms, and shelter platforms.


Weather in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta demands a high-performing wood. Summer temperatures can rise above 90 degrees, there’s plenty of precipitation, and the brackish water can be tough on wooden structures. The maintenance crew at 5 Rivers  is all too familiar with continuous repairs and replacement of treated Pine.  Ipe, a Brazilian hardwood species, was chosen for the new platforms, walkways and piers.


Ipe was the obvious choice for the 5 Rivers project. Ipe naturally resists rot and insects, requires little maintenance, and can last for 30 years. Besides these quantifiable advantages, Ipe also has a high aesthetic value, and it was important to enhance, rather than detract from, the natural beauty of the delta.


At first, the Ipe has a beautiful brown tone with amber and red hues, but as it ages, it develops a lovely silver-gray patina. If the original tone is preferred, a UV protectorate can be applied to keep the color.

OHC Ipe is the perfect wood species for the structures at this unique nature center. It’s a smart financial choice for a state-owned property, durable enough to withstand large groups of children on field trips, and beautiful enough to serve as the backdrop for an elegant delta wedding.









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Live OAK Landing



Live Oak Landing

Live Oak Landing, located near Mobile, AL, was purchased from private owners by Baldwin County in 2012 as a means to protect and conserve coastal habitats, and also to provide recreational and educational opportunities. Its verdant 318 acres are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, from Glossy Ibis to turtles to old-growth Live Oak trees with evocative Spanish Moss, all of which combine to create a beautifully Southern tableau.  

This relatively new county recreational area has already become known as one of the best fishing launches in the county, hosting high-stakes bass fishing tournaments. There’s something for everyone at Live Oak Landing - a nearby pond has even hosted fishing tournaments for disabled children.

The county parks department decided that if Live Oak Landing was to become a premier fishing spot, the boat launches, fishing piers and docks would have to be of the best quality. However, these projects had to make financial sense, as well as being handsome and structurally sound.

With 12 floating docks, 4 launches, and 2 large pavillions, Live Oak Landing is an excellent place for family outings both on and off the water, as well as the perfect place to start a young angler fishing.


Ipe from Overseas Hardwoods Company was determined to be the best species for the project.

Ipe, an exotic Brazilian hardwood, is known for its longevity and aesthetics, and is able to withstand wet conditions while resisting rot, making it a perfect species for docks and piers. Ipe is more expensive than pressure-treated wood, but the lifetime of an Ipe structure is approximately 30 years, compared to the 10 or so years a pressure-treated lumber structure might last.

When considering the longevity and durability of Ipe, it’s easily found to be the most cost-effective choice.

Besides its excellent weathering characteristics, Ipe is a beautiful wood species, with color ranging from a olive or yellowish brown to reddish brown, with a fine texture and a rich natural luster, and can also be allowed to grey to a regal silver patina. At Live Oak Landing, OHC Ipe was used to craft distinguished-looking fishing piers, floating docks, and a lovely boat launch, creating the perfect environment to relax, have fun, and reel in a big one!



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How To Finish A Hardwood Deck

Finishing (applying a protective coating or stain) a hardwood deck is different than a softwood deck, like cedar or treated pine. For instance, hardwoods like Ipe, Cumaru, Tigerwood, and Garapa are much more dense, making it difficult for finishes to penetrate the wood. Even when using the proper UV-inhibiting hardwood oil, the finishing material essentially stays on the surface. Tropical hardwoods age well even without a finish. While the color of the hardwood will change over time the integrity of the hardwood won’t be compromised like softwoods, which can splinter or crack excessively if left unprotected.

Hardwood decking will oxidize when exposed to sunlight, developing a handsome, silver/gray patina. Hardwoods gray from the outside in, so if a project has been unfinished for a longer time, the thicker the gray surface will be. Luckily, if a homeowner tires of the silvery-gray color of aged wood, it is possible to bring back the original color.


Types of Finishes / Coatings

Since the hardwood is essentially impenetrable by typical coatings, a hardwood penetrating oil is recommended. UV rays from the sun are responsible for oxidation on the hardwood's surface, so a UV-inhibiting hardwood oil is best, such as Ipe Oil or Penofin Hardwood Oil. It’s worth reminding that oxidation and UV rays doesn’t damage hardwoods in the short term, but regularly applying a UV-inhibiting oil can increase the life of your project by years. UV-inhibiting oils will also help to maintain the natural color and minimize the graying from the sun.

Required Prepping

Fortunately, prep work is minimal to finish a hardwood deck. If your deck is less than two years old, or if it’s older but has been properly finished in the last couple of years, a simple power washing could do the trick. If that isn’t enough, apply a hardwood deck cleaner and brightener; you can also try some soap and water. It’s essential to apply the oil to a clean, dry surface. One exception is a brand new hardwood deck, which can sometimes have a mill glaze: a compressing of cell walls caused by process of machining the lumber to size. In some cases, you can sand the boards first to remove the glaze or us a prep to open the cells. Consult the manufacturer of the product you as using for best results.

If the deck has had several years of exposure to the sun and has completely grayed, you’ll may need to sand the boards to remove the oxidized surface, then follow the same instructions for finishing.

Finish Application

To stain a cedar or treated pine deck, one applies the stain with a roller or squeegee, letting the stain soak into the boards, then allows the stain to dry. Hardwood finishes, as you may have guessed, require a different application. Since the hardwoods are so dense, even penetrating oils don’t completely penetrate, resulting in a sticky and unsightly surface.

After a good washing, and making sure your deck is dry, apply the hardwood oil with a brush, wait ten to fifteen minutes, and then rub in as much oil as possible and remove any excess oil from the surface. If you’re finishing a large project, work in sections so you don’t have to walk on the finished surface. Depending on the heat and humidity of your location, the surface should be completely dry in a day or two.

Hardwood Maintenance

Maintenance of your deck depends on your location and your desired appearance for your project. If you live in an extremely hot, sunny climate, your deck might require an annual refinishing to maintain the natural color. However, if you live in a more temperate location or the project is partially shaded then your deck may only need to be refinished once every few years. The beauty of choosing a hardwood deck is that when it doesn’t look as new as you’d like, you can simply refinish!

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A Day In The Life Of A Tropical Hardwood Buyer

Gregory Robinson grew up in Mobile, AL, as a part of a family with a long history in lumber, but he never could have predicted that one day he’d spend his days immersed in Brazilian culture, traveling up and down Amazonian tributaries, and conducting business transactions in Portuguese.


When he first began his work as a hardwoods buyer back in 2002, Gregory spent 160 days in Brazil learning the culture. He didn’t speak Portuguese, but quickly realized it was critical to learn it as quickly as possible. He attended an intensive language school for two weeks, and has developed his language skills over the years. Now, Gregory only travels to Brazil a few times a year for inspecting and purchasing of product.

When travelling to Brazil, trips are typically about two weeks. While abroad, Gregory hits the ground running, breakfasting with a business contact at 7am, and ending the day with a 9pm dinner with another supplier. In between he typically visits multiple mills in pursuit of the very best lumber. A trip could consist of four to five cities or towns, and eight to ten mills per town. He’s gone to extreme lengths to reach a town, once hiring a tiny plane to fly him out, or riding on a boat for three to four hours. Gregory has travelled the partially-unpaved Rodovia Transamazônica (Trans-Amazonian Highway), which has no bridges even on the most treacherous sections, once crossed a river in a canoe, and spent the coldest night of his life on a barge with an out-of-control air conditioner.

Besides the sometimes adventurous aspect of his work, Gregory has also built relationships over the years with mill owners and employees, eating meals in their homes. He’s even received help in expanding his Portuguese vocabulary to learn the most effective words for a situation (hint: some of them have four letters).

Gregory has learned that culturally, Brazilians might have the intent to follow through on a business deal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. He estimates that in the first two years on the job, only about 20% of the orders he placed were filled, and came to realize that a transaction isn’t a sure thing until the lumber is on the ship. There have been a few cultural barriers to overcome, but now, he says, these relationships have enabled him to know which mill partners are truthful, legal, and reputable, and which ones need to be avoided.

“It’s critical,” he says, “to build professional and personal relationships and really know our suppliers in order to buy the very best lumber possible. Anyone who doesn’t truly know their suppliers is really rolling the dice.”

While in Brazil, Gregory blends high-tech and low-tech tools. He uses GPS to find remote locations, and WhatsApp (a messaging app) to communicate with suppliers, but he also relies on the common humanity of shared experiences to bridge cultural divides, such as sharing a meal in someone’s home, or showing off family photos. All of these methods and skills ensure that OHC sources the highest quality, most beautiful Brazilian lumber products for their customers.

Posted in Tigerwood, Garapa, Ipe, Cumaru, Outdoor Living | Leave a comment

Deck Design Trends

Decks have changed greatly over the years, from the dull platforms of the past to the multi-level, highly-personalized extensions of indoor living space. With the addition of pergolas and other shade-giving features, as well as built-in fire pits, decks can now be utilized for most of the year, allowing homeowners to maximize their outdoor space as a part of everyday life.



Here’s a look at some deck trends that have contributed to bringing home life into the outdoors:


Larger Decks

Since 1973 the average home size has increased by more than 1000 square feet. It makes sense that homeowners would also desire an increased deck size. A typical deck in years past might have been 200 square feet, but current average deck square footage is 300-400 square feet. Building larger decks makes room for all of the “extras” that homeowners want, such as pergolas, privacy walls, built-ins, and storage and planters for both beauty and function.



Multi-Level Decks

Typical decks in years past were simple rectangles with rails and stairs. Today’s decks are often multi-storied structures, built to accommodate sloping terrain, maximize a pleasing view, or create different zones for multiple functions. Multi-level decks allow interaction between different zones, connecting people rather than separating, as multi-story decks tend to do. With multi-level decks (compared to single-level or multi-story decks), it’s possible to have a lounge area connected to an outdoor kitchen, or an open viewing area connected to a covered area for protection from the elements.



Two-Toned Wood

Many homeowners today choose to add interest to their deck by selecting two finishes or even two species of wood. It’s becoming more common to combine a lighter-toned wood with a darker-toned wood. This combination has been seen both by pairing built-in furniture in light tones with a deck in darker tones, and also by integrating the different colored boards in the same deck, with, for instance, dark floor decking and light-colored borders or railings.



Hidden Fasteners

Until recently it was fairly standard to see a line of screws on a deck, but thankfully hidden fasteners are gaining traction. Some, like the Pro Plug System, go through the top of the board and have a wooden plug placed on top, and other types, such as Camo Fasteners, are mounted to the side or underneath. Aside from aesthetic concerns, hidden fasteners also provide increased safety and durability. Hidden fasteners won’t stand out from the board after exposure to the elements causes the wood to contract. Less fasteners exposed mean less stubbed toes and a cleaner look.




Lighting has always been important, but homeowners and designers realize now what impact it can have on the look and feel of a deck. Gone are the days of tiki torches roped to the railing; they’ve been replaced by permanent solutions that call attention to special details and highlight the different zones of the deck. Low-voltage lighting can be wired into the deck’s steps, increasing both safety and beauty.

Outdoor Kitchens

When homeowners dream about using their deck, the most frequently pictured scene is one of burgers grilling while family and friends relax nearby. Modern decks take that to a new level by creating an entire outdoor kitchen featuring elements such as cabinets, countertops, a refrigerator, sink, kegerator, and of course, a first-class grill.


These emerging deck trends open up the outdoors to be more than a deck. They enable the deck to be an outdoor living room, outdoor kitchen, outdoor dining room...really almost any indoor area can now be reimagined as an outdoor space!

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Featured Project: New Orleans Ipe Deck

Sometimes the only thing that works to beat the heat on a balmy summer day in New Orleans is to retire to the porch with iced tea in hand.


For one homeowner, David, spending time on the 10-year-old deck wasn’t the ideal situation he hoped it would be. Although his home was lovely and featured a beautiful, refreshing swimming pool, the composite deck left something to be desired. It hadn’t aged well and didn’t have the warm, organic feel of real wood underfoot. He decided to pull up the composite decking and try no-seam vinyl decking instead.

Still unhappy with the look and feel, a fortuitous meeting with OHC President Lee Robinson, Jr, introduced David to Ipe wood. After researching Ipe and considering the humid, tropical climate in New Orleans, David decided to make some changes and re-cap the hand rails with Ipe.

The wood’s natural weather- and rot-resistance would make it a natural choice for the location, and its good looks would elevate the entire backyard and pool area.

As construction began, things looked so great that David placed another order for more wood to completely redo the deck. In fact, he fell so in love with the Ipe (and the customer service he experienced with OHC) that he ended up going back two times to add more lumber! David can now be found drinking his morning cup of coffee on the deck, taking an afternoon dip in the pool, or simply relaxing outside any time of day.

The contrast of the white balusters and posts with the rich, warm tones of the Ipe rail cap and decking plus the landscaping and pool creates a true oasis.

David and his partner entertain frequently and have hosted numerous gatherings in the two months since the deck’s completion, sharing their new deck with friends and family. In fact, David was recently selected by Afar Magazine, an experiential travel publication, to be one of five homes open to the public to show how real New Orleanians live.

The spacious deck and surrounding area ensures the tour guests will be introduced to Southern hospitality with New Orleans’ particular flair.

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