Columbia PureBond
W O O D   W O R K S™
June 2009   Vol. 3
Columbia Newsletter
False rift and quarters equal a true value!

The subject of "false" rift cut and quarter sliced veneers often begins with overtones that some heinous villains are at work behind the scenes, somehow scheming to deceive an unwary buyer.  While nothing could be further from the truth, the term "unwary" may warrant a little discussion, for I believe it is not so much a matter of predation on the unsuspecting as it is a lack of understanding of purpose.  The use of false rift and false quarters has been practiced openly and widely over at least the span of time I have been in this industry, and that covers the last 3 decades.  Because of its widespread use during my rookie years, I would speculate it has been around a lot longer.
What are false rift/quarters?

False quarters or false rift faces may also be referred to as "quarters/rift pulled from the side of the back of the log," or bastard quarters.  In simple, non-scientific terms, a tree's growth rings taper to a peak from the ground up, effectively forming what vaguely resembles a stack of nested narrow cones.  Because of this trait, when a halved log is conventionally (plain) sliced on a tangent to the center of the tree, the resulting figure pattern usually begins to take the shape of an inverted "V" or cathedral.  As the knife approaches the back of the half log, the cathedrals become very narrow and the juvenile wood and pith may even begin to show.  The wood is typically characterized by stress, dote, incipient decay, and discoloration, and thus is generally unacceptable for use as face veneers. 

However, there is usually a bit of straight grain on either side of this otherwise undesirable region of wood that can be recovered in the clipping process.  If these straight grained components meet the criteria for a given grade of rift cut or quarter sliced faces, based on the amount of flake (if the species is oak) and other attributes and limitations thereof, including sweep and slope, they may legally be sold as rift cut if flake is minimized, or quarter sliced if it is pronounced. 

This practice was actually sanctioned officially by the industry with the publication of the HPVA Interim Standard HP-1-1993, and  in each successive version up to and including the current ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2004.  A note at the bottom of TABLE 2 reads, "The method of cutting for a given face veneer pattern shall be at mill option unless otherwise specified by the buyer in an explicit manner to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding."  TABLES 3.1 -3.11 allow for a nominal 3" component width for "AA" and "A" rift and quarter sliced veneers rather than 6" for "AA" grades in all other cuts, and 5" for "A" grade in all other cuts to accommodate the narrow nature of false quarters or rift.  Because of the small amount of veneer in each bundle of false quarters, any sequences that develop are usually quite short.

False Rift
Why should I accept false rift/quarters?

I think there are two primary reasons why this practice is not only acceptable, but also desirable for many applications:

1) Responsible management and environmental stewardship of a dwindling resource.  "True" rift and quarter sliced veneers are available, but are almost always produced to custom specification.  In order to produce a true rift or quarter requires a log at least 22-24" in diameter, and while still around, these are increasingly less available.  There is no guarantee that such a log will produce the desired results, either, and in the event it doesn't, additional logs will have to be sacrificed.  Once a half log is cut into quarters, that half of the log is thus committed to being quarter sliced or rift cut, meaning that any veneer produced in excess of the required footage will be relegated to lower grade status.  Additionally, not all the veneer that is produced from each quarter will be of a sufficiently high grade to achieve a desired look, and the faces thus rejected are also relegated to back status, requiring otherwise highly prized veneer logs to be utilized in a less than desirable or efficient manner.

2) Cost management.  On the surface, this sounds like corporate greed and deception, both popular indictments of business in today's tough economic environment.   In this case, however, the cost management factor affects any and all parties involved in the process.  Plain slicing produces highly desirable decorative veneers from the outside of the log through about 2/3 of the log thickness.  As previously mentioned, the remainder of the flitch in conventional slicing is referred to as the "back of the log," which contains the undesirable cathedral section usually surrounded on both sides by false quarters.  The cut angle at this point is actually closer to radial than tangential at this juncture, producing nice bundles of straight grain on either side of the removed, discarded, or severely downgraded cathedral section.  This straight grain may or may not contain flake in red and white oak, depending on the incidental angle of the cut at that point.  Much of this veneer meets the requirements for quarter sliced or rift cut as established by ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2004 and the Architectural Woodwork Quality Standards Illustrated.  In fact, in section 200-T-8 of the AWI Standard, there is a mention that, "Cherry, for example, is rarely quarter sliced, but rather the quarters are clipped of (sic) from larger plain sliced flitches."  Any other use of veneers so developed would be as lower grade faces or backs, thus driving up the costs for the manufacturer for sliced wood, and subsequently the prices that must be charged downstream, not to mention forcing the use of even more logs to provide faces of true rift or quarter sliced veneers.  

Please know that there are still strict appearance requirements a face must meet in order to be classified as "AA," "A," or "B" rift or quartered veneer.  This relates to limitations on natural characteristics, amount of flake (in rift), quality of construction, and even the amount of sweep and/or slope in the grain direction.  Just because false rift or quarters develop does not mean they automatically "make the grade!"  Where longer sequences are needed, false rift may not be suitable, but be aware that in some situations allowing false rift with an added specification requiring matching between sequences for color and grain may work.  Communication here is critical to ensure expectations are met.
Do I have a choice?

You absolutely do have a choice, but you must disclose that requirement in your initial specifications.  Unless otherwise specified, Columbia Forest Products or any other producer (including many considered to specialize in architectural products only) would typically consider false rift or quarters to meet either or both the HP-1-2004 or AWI Standards.  Because that is the way available veneers would likely have been produced, then veneers provided to meet a particular quote would more than likely be false rift or quarters, and the seller would probably not feel a need to disclose this.  This does not constitute any attempt to be disingenuous, unethical, or intentionally misleading, but rather should be considered straight forward, given no additional specifications.  However, any rift or quarter sliced specification would likely be for a particular job and should thus require a lot of discussion, including the method of cut that is expected to produce the rift or quarter sliced look the buyer requires.  

While I strongly encourage extensive questioning when information is missing from a specification, ultimately a specifier should be responsible for providing enough information to ensure his or her expectations are met, including sequence size, component width, application, and yes, even whether true rift or quarters are required specifically.
One final note

A specification for true rift cutting or quarter slicing is not a carte blanche assurance of desirable appearance.  False quarters and rift can and often do look as good as and sometimes even better than true rift or quarter sliced veneer.

Ang Schramm

Columbia Forest Products
In This Issue
False rift and quarters equal a true value!
What are false rift/quarters?
Why should I accept false rift/quarters?
Do I have a choice?
What is Wood Works?
False Rift Cut Photo 1
False Rift Cut Photo 2
Wood Works Newsletter
CFP University
This is a  service of CFP University and Ang Schramm to provide the Columbia community with tips, solutions and insights. Email Ang if you have ideas for more Wood Works subject matter. Feel free to forward to colleagues and customers that might benefit from the information.
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Rift Cut 2

Photos courtesy of Veneer Technologies, Inc.
This information is offered in good faith for general purposes only. It is believed to be accurate and has been compiled from sources believed to be reliable. It is offered for your consideration, investigation, and verification.  Columbia Forest Products makes no warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy or completeness of the information and data herein. Furthermore, Columbia Forest Products will not be liable for claims relating to any party's use of, or reliance on information and data contained herein, regardless or whether it is claimed that the information and data are inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise misleading.