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

gold medal design for Olympic send off

  Cumaru Deck at Jonathan Beach Club


  When Civic Entertainment needed a set for NBC's Olympic Send Off, MadeFirst of Nashville, Tennessee was the company for the job. Owner, Jonathan Hammel's team, renowned for expert quality and craftsmanship, created a design utilizing the appearance of a deck for a stage placed on the beach in Santa Monica, California. When asked what makes MadeFirst different, Hammel responds, "Its our innovation, attention to detail and dedication to our clients that makes us the right partner for creative endeavors".

 In preparation for Rio Olympics 2016, MadeFirst's design helped kick off NBC's first ever Olympic Social Opening Ceremony hosted by Ryan Seacrest in Santa Monica. The custom stage made of Brazilian Cumaru decking provided by Overseas Hardwoods Company was used to keep the Rio theme. The Cumaru stage provided the exotic Brazilian look with the rich tones of Cumaru contrasting with the sand at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica, California. At first glance one might think they were in Rio

 MadeFirst has an extensive list of projects throughout the US. With exquisite use of wood, metal, foam and/or plastic, this innovative company utilizes state of the art design and equipment to provide clients with breathtaking results. By staying firmly rooted in its philosophy, MadeFirst's will surely continue to achieve a highly acclaimed status and awards for its designs.


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Plantation Teak Vs. Burmese Teak

When one lists the attributes of Teak, it almost seems too good to be true. Teak naturally resists rot, insects, and decay; doesn’t corrode when in contact with steel; has a beautiful, tight grain and weathers to a regal silver; is naturally non-skid; and is highly stable and easy to mill. It’s even been nicknamed “The King of Hardwoods.”


Burmese Teak is selectively harvested from well-managed forests in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and these trees supply some of the most stable, durable lumber in the world. Decades ago, there was a time when many countries refused to source from Myanmar due to political and humanitarian issues. During that time, Teak plantations in other countries began to crop up, and as demand for Teak increased “plantation Teak” (Tectona grandis) was grown in areas as widely varying as Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Mexico.

Unfortunately, the soil chemistry in these non-native locations is different enough from Myanmar’s soil that plantation Teak is inferior. The high silica content in Myanmar’s soil contributes to the water- and weather-resistance of the wood, so the soil chemistry and climate variations in other parts of the world result in a much less consistent color and grain. The color of plantation Teak is less lustrous and is slightly lighter in tone. As an interesting side note, the high silica content of the soil in Myanmar also contributes to the species’ non-skid texture.

Aside from soil chemistry, plantation Teak differs in another major way. Burmese Teak is extremely stable and durable. Plantation Teak, on the other hand, is more rapidly grown and harvested. This fast growth and harvest rate results in a lesser quality and may affect the denisty of the wood. Boards from plantation Teak are more likely to crack and warp as a result of the fast growth. These plantation trees have a larger percentage of lower branches, which, despite pruning, causes pin knots which create greater defects and slope of grain issues resulting in less stability. Plantation Teak requires more maintenance to make up for these deficiencies.

Because responsible harvesting practices are so important to us at OHC, we vet all of our sourcing mills/partners to ensure that harvesting, processing, manufacturing, and shipping meets and exceeds local, state, federal, and international regulations. We’ve toured mills across Myanmar to find the right suppliers to produce well manufacrtured Burmese Teak with the best quality, grain, and size selction for 

Thanks to Half A CenTury of importing international hardwoods, we have the knowledge and skills to source only the highest quality, responsibly sourced, 100% Burmese Mountain Teak available.

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Featured Project: Spring Hill College

Located atop a scenic hill in Mobile, Alabama, Spring Hill College has enjoyed a long reputation for excellence in the Jesuit tradition.


In fact, Spring HIll College is the state’s oldest institution of higher learning, founded in 1830 by Mobile’s first Catholic bishop. Spring Hill is also the first Catholic college in the Southeast, the third oldest Jesuit college and the fifth oldest Catholic college in the United States. Besides these historic accomplishments, it’s currently ranked by Forbes.com as one of America’s Best Colleges. Additionally, Spring Hill College was one of the first Southern colleges to integrate racially, and was even mentioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who praises Spring Hill in his 1963 Letter From Birmingham Jail.

A college with such a notable history and strong presence deserves to have a beautiful campus. Two of the buildings on campus, the Arlene Mitchell Theater and the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center, prominently feature Meranti wood from OHC. Meranti was chosen primarily for its beauty and as an essential component of the campus’ tropical colonial architecture, which combines red tropical hardwoods with white stucco and other white elements.

Meranti is an excellent species for the balmy, tropical location, as this species of wood naturally resists damp conditions.

Students and other patrons of the Arlene Mitchell Theater enter through a set of large, handsome Meranti doors and transoms, immediately stepping into an inviting lobby lined with Tongue And Groove Meranti panelling stretching from floor to ceiling. The dramatic entry is appropriate to the drama that takes place inside the theater. Tongue And Groove panelling, which is a ¼” or ⅛” bevel on two of the edges of the face of the board, enhances the appearance of the wood by calling attention to the length of the board and the height of the wall. This technique is purely aesthetic, and is machined in-house by OHC.

The lobby of the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center also features beautiful Meranti elements. A large trophy case lined with Tongue And Groove Meranti panelling contains the many athletic awards earned by Spring Hill College students over the years. The awards deserve to shine in a beautiful home, and the warm, rich Meranti handsomely contains them. The railings and bannisters in the Rec Center are also crafted from Meranti. They’re beautiful, and are durable enough to withstand the large numbers of students and community members who attend games, classes, and other events in the building.

OHC is proud to have supplied high-quality Meranti to Spring Hill College, a university with an esteemed history and a longstanding place in the Mobile community.

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Sinker Cypress: Buried Treasure

In the 1800s and 1900s, loggers used the best technology of their time (axes and saws) to harvest Cypress trees from the swamps of Florida and the lower Mississippi Valley. The trees would then dry out for up to two years in order to become light enough to float down the river to the mill. However, an estimated 10-20% of all Cypress trees harvested at that time never made it to the mill, instead sinking into the mud and silt at the bottom of the river. These logs became known as “Sinker Cypress” or Sinker Deadhead Logs because they have sunk to the river’s bottom.


Today, Sinker Cypress is harvested from these rivers using the best technology of our time: sonar and other locating equipment.

Once discovered, scuba divers swim down, attach cables to the logs, and use a winch or airbags to pull the logs to the surface. Once again, the logs need to be air-dried for up to two years before they are usable.

Sinker Cypress isIMG_1719.jpg a highly desired lumber product. Because it’s a reclaimed lumber, the supply is limited. As old-growth wood, this lumber is harder, denser, and more stable than newer-growth Cypress, and its 150-year underwater preservation process makes it one of the most rot- and insect-resistant woods in the world. Sinker Cypress contains an oil, cypressene, which preserves the heart wood in the water as organisms eat away at the bark. Even after harvesting, the cypressene continues to protect the wood from the elements, rotting and pests.

Sinker Cypress is also known for its beautiful grain variations, from honeyed browns to grays to olive greens, depending on where it came to rest in the river bottom. If the log landed in a sandy area, lighter tones developed, and a muddier river bottom results in a darker, more olive green tone. Over the century and a half that the logs have been immersed, they have taken on the tannins and minerals from their resting places. Besides a gorgeous tone and color, a naturally tight grain structure gives the wood an unrivaled allure.

Sinker Cypress is commonly used for interior and exterior siding and soffit, but can be used for anything from flooring to furniture. Its strength and attractiveness lends itself to a variety of applications.

Additionally, as a reclaimed wood, Sinker Cypress is an eco-friendly product, and architects and builders can earn LEED points by using it.

pecky_cypress-013594-edited.jpgPecky Sinker Cypress is an even rarer and more valuable type of Sinker Cypress. This highly sought-after wood has pockets and recesses in it that, when milled, show up as unique markings. Surprisingly, the recesses are caused by a fungus called “stereum taxodil” which only flourishes while the tree is alive, and dies off when the tree is cut down. The Pecky Cypress adds a distinctive beauty especially well-suited to a rustic look.  

Sinker Cypress offers strength, durability, and a commanding, exquisite beauty, but its appeal doesn’t lie only in its good qualities. These qualities combined with a rich history of preservation at the bottom of ageless rivers, and a small impact on the planet make Sinker Cypress an unparalleled choice for any project.

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Why is Teak so Expensive?

The word “Teak” is synonymous with quality outdoor furniture, decking, and prestigious yachts. But as anyone who’s purchased Teak knows, that quality comes at a cost.


The basic law of supply and demand dictates much of this high cost.

Teak is in high demand because of its properties. It is durable; water-, pest- and rot-resistant; has only minor shrinkage; doesn’t corrode with steel; and very importantly, has a beautiful look, naturally weathering to a silvery-gray tone.

Teak (Tectona grandis) comes from Myanmar (formerly Burma), a country of 51 million people in Southeast Asia, bordering Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand. Myanmar’s forests contain half of the world’s naturally occurring teak. Teak has also been cultivated in other parts of Southeast Asia, but this plantation Teak is generally viewed as inferior to indigenous Burmese Teak.

Several changes in Myanmar have contributed to an increased cost of Teak. For instance, the increase in government regulations have led to a decline in logging. While these measures exist to preserve the ecology of the country, they have caused the price to increase.

There is simply less Teak available.  

Formerly, companies were able to legally export logs, which has now been banned in favor of exporting only processed lumber. Paying more for a more processed product has led to an increased cost. It’s also difficult to obtain teak logs from the forest. OHC’s Teak is logged using ancient, traditional methods which are less disruptive to the forest than a skidder..

Another factor affecting the cost of Teak is civil unrest in Myanmar. Unfortunately Myanmar has had one of the longest-running civil wars in history. This unrest made it difficult and costly to do business there. While the dictatorship officially ended in 2011, many current political players are former military officers. Even so, the political situation has improved since 2011.

OHC’s Teak is 100% responsibly harvested and our partners in Myanmar participate in reforestation. However, the cost of Teak isn’t going to decrease any time in the near future.

Its limited supply, logging restrictions, and highly desirable quality are reflected in the price, but thankfully that high price is attached to an excellent, long-lasting product.

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Featured Project: St. Lawrence Catholic Church

It’s been said that humans have a primordial need to build wooden structures, stemming from eons of building and living in them. The stunning millwork in St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Fairhope, AL fulfills that need, creating a feeling of warmth and security for its parishioners.


A contemporary, octagonal structure capable of accommodating 600 worshippers, the interior of the building mixes brickwork and millwork to achieve a warm but airy space.

Meranti Dark Red Seraya was the first choice for the millwork, due to its striking beauty and durability in the continually changing climate of the coastal location near Mobile Bay.


St. Lawrence Catholic Church faced a special challenge with its design: the 40-foot wood panels on the walls and ceiling needed variation and depth to avoid monotony and heft. Fortunately the beautiful grain and skilled custom millwork break up these substantial sections. Also, the gorgeous natural color of the Dark Red Seraya complements the pink/red tones of the brickwork, creating contrasting textures and producing an aesthetically pleasing mix.

The architects utilized gapped siding to show off the Meranti Dark Red Seraya and break up the large wall and soffit sections. Instead of placing the boards right next to each other, the designers left a space in between, highlighting the character of each individual plank.

Overseas Hardwoods Company’s Meranti Dark Red Seraya is known for its workability and its proficiency at remaining stable and lying flat in service. 


The cupola in the center of the sanctuary lets in natural light, breaking up the paneling and playing up the differing appearance of the wood. Although the same wood species and the same finish was used for the panels and the cupola, the cupola looks quite distinct from the soffit. Meranti boasts a tight grain structure, allowing designers and builders to use the same species but achieve different looks, depending on the light.



Another interesting detail of the cupola are the decorative circles nestled between support beams. Intended merely as a point of interest, these circles speak to the workability of the wood. OHC’s Meranti provides a restrictive premium grade that includes PHAD (Pin Holes Are Defects), meaning architects and millwork companies have a greater latitude in design and creativity due to the absence of virtually all defects. 

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Is Philippine Mahogany A True Mahogany?

Here's the truth behind Philippine Mahogany:

Vintage boat with Philippine Mahogany

The term "Philippine Mahogany" was used largely in the 1950's and '60's to describe wood species used on luxury boats or yachts.

For many years the Meranti wood species has been known as "Philippine Mahogany." Philippine Mahogany is a term that generally applies to a number of wood species native to southeast Asia. Confusingly, Philippine Mahogany is not actually a type of Mahogany at all. Many types of wood have co-opted the name but aren’t truly Mahogany, such as Royal Mahogany and East Indian Mahogany. “True” Mahogany comes from the Swietenia and Khaya genuses, while the name “Philippine Mahogany” has been used to describe many types of lumber species from the Shorea genus. (Things get even more confusing when buying lumber in Australia, where wood from the Shorea genus is marketed as Pacific Maple!)

Philippine Mahogany encompasses many different varieties of wood that have been offered by non-traditional lumber companies, creating negative results and a bad rap for the name. The five main groupings (based on heartwood color and weight) for Philippine Mahogany are Light Red Meranti, Dark Red Meranti, White Meranti, Yellow Meranti, and Balau.

Each of these types not only has a different appearance but has different mechanical strength values and different working properties.

Many Philippine Mahogany/Meranti importers in the United States sell a commercial grade known as DUC (Dark Uniform Color), but unfortunately, actual uniformity has been sorely lacking. This grade has wide variances in grain, color, and tone.

Out of all of the false Mahoganies, those in the Shorea genus probably come the closest to genuine Mahogany in look and workability. Philippine Mahogany/Meranti has been used for centuries as a less expensive substitute for Mahogany and is an excellent choice for everything from structural work, boat building, outdoor furniture, and decking.

All true Mahogany species in their native countries are listed in Appendix II of the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Philippine Mahogany/Meranti is not listed on CITES II, making it a more ecologically sound choice.

Meranti and Philippine Mahogany are two names for the same species of wood, but in order to be more precise and deliver a more uniform and consistent product, Overseas Hardwoods Company (OHC) has decided to focus on two specific types of Meranti. 

DR_Seraya_front_grain.jpgClassic Meranti Dark Red Seraya

Nemesu (Left) & Dark Red Seraya (Right)

Meranti Nemesu is a dense/dark species, and Meranti Dark Red Seraya is a medium dense/dark species. Both have a warm, luminous appearance with consistent color and grain variation, and a high degree of workability.

Thanks to OHC’s outstanding reputation as a top source of high-quality lumber, you can eliminate uncertainty and count on a reliable, consistent product when you choose Meranti for a project.

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Featured Project: St. Ignatius Catholic Parish

It’s rare to find a church that feels both sacred and inviting. St. Ignatius Catholic Parish in the College Park area of Mobile, AL is one such church. Worshipping together since 1937, the church dedicated its first building in 1978, added a vestibule in 1979 and completed a major choir loft renovation in 2015. 


Mobile’s coastal climate requires a high-functioning wood species, but just as high on the list of specifications was a wood that would age with beauty and create a warm and inviting space.

Thanks to its reputation for withstanding high humidity and resisting rot, Meranti Nemesu was utilized in the church’s original construction. Therefore any new renovations needed to match the look of the existing millwork.



Any millwork shop, builder, or architect is concerned with the durability of a wood species. Walking through St. Ignatius and comparing the wood from the 1970s to that of the 2015 construction gives a good sense of how this particular species of wood ages. Not only has it held up without warping or unseemly wearing, the Meranti Nemesu has mellowed into a dark chocolate finish that very nearly glows.

The rich, organic feel of the Meranti Nemesu millwork in St. Ignatius expresses the warm and inviting atmosphere of the building.


The expansive coffered ceiling, which is inset with lighting, plays up Meranti’s natural glow, reflecting light as it bounces from surface to surface. This design element shows off the wood’s beauty, but also diffuses and softens the light in the sanctuary. The oculus directly above the altar also lets natural light in, adding another dimension of light and warmth to the room.



The paneled wall and inlaid icons complement the building’s atmosphere. The icons, which are painted onto a golden background, play up the wood’s natural glow and gold undertones. The icons and Nemesu panels are so lustrous that they appear to be subtly lit, but are simply reflecting the ambient light of the church.



The modern stained glass windows seen throughout the church invite contemplation of the sacred, marrying contemporary design with biblical and ecclesiastical iconography. The amber, chestnut, and ochre tones of the stained glass echo the rich tones of the paneled walls surrounding them. Additionally, the circular shape of many of the stained glass windows repeats the circles seen in the heavy wood doors of the church, creating a pleasing sense of continuity.




The parishioners of St. Ignatius worship together in the original church pews from 1978. Each pew, milled from a single board of Nemesu, has no seam, and has borne the wear and tear of constant use for nearly 40 years, but they look just as beautiful and welcoming as the day they were installed.

Meranti Nemesu is available in extra wide (12”) cuts as well as extra long (8’ to 22’), making dramatic design possible.


Several design elements in the church would not be possible without OHC’s long cuts of wood. These seamless boards are featured on the coffered ceiling, the vestibule, the altar dais, and the paneled walls of the choir loft. The planks emphasize the height of the sanctuary, drawing your eyes up, as befits a house of worship. It simultaneously makes the space feel both vast and intimate, which is quite a feat.



A particular challenge for this project was the large sections covered with wood paneling. With Meranti Nemesu’s varied grain and slight variation in color, the wall has ample depth and character which prevents it from appearing dense and monotonous, like a large brown painted wall.

St. Ignatius Catholic Parish has welcomed multiple generations of worshipers to its building, and with the beauty and longevity of its Meranti Nemesu millwork, it will last for many generations to come.

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