Reading the grain

Many woodworking tasks, especially plan­ing, require working in the direction of the grain. You can usually tell grain orienta­tion by running your hand along a board face: The surface will feel smoother when your hand is moving with the grain and rougher when running against it. Another method is to slide a smoothing plane lightly along the face in one direction, then repeat in the opposite direction. The blade will chatter or catch on the wood fibers when it is cutting against the grain. As shown on the plain-sawn board at right, the wood fibers slope “uphill” in the direc­tion of the grain and “downhill” against it.

Determining the best direction to plane

WORKING WITH THE GRAINTo prevent a plane blade from catching the grain and tearing or chipping the wood fibers, always cut in the uphill grain direc­tion. This will produce clean shavings and a smooth surface. Be especially careful to spot grain that changes direction within a single board. The diagram at left shows sev­eral typical grain patterns with arrows indi­cating the best planing direction. The uphill direction may be constant from one end of a board to the other (A). Or it may change, demanding that you plane from each end toward the middle (B). It could also change from the middle to the ends (C). If the grain does not slope at all, you can plane in a sin­gle pass from either end (D).

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