Hi all!

The defendant in question is the neck of a 2018 Eric Johnson signature strat, which was sold to a client as quartersawn (according to Fender’s specs).

Do you concur?

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Hi Joona,

By popular and accepted definition of an acceptable deviation from 90% (75-90% range) this timber can be called quartersawn.  Not that it makes much or any difference in this application whether it is or not.  But , yes, it's quartersawn.


Thanks for the reply Rusty!

I would also agree with you, albeit this wouldn’t probably be my prime example of what is typically meant by a 1/4-sawn neck. Ironically, technically this could be quite an accurate representation specifically of a 1/4-sawn plank, and a less than ideal representation of a truly rift or radially cut neck, which I feel is usually confused with the former.  One reason for my somewhat vague posting is that I’m interested in hearing how you guys and gals as builders, repairers and general technical connoisseurs approach the whole debate over what actually constitutes a 1/4-sawn neck. 

All the best,


Usually if I see the little "fishtails" it's indicative of quarter sawn.

Hi Allan, and thanks for the response!

I assume you're referring to the ray fleck? I agree, that's something I also associate with quarter sawn exclusively, even though from my experience it seems to be most apparent on the pieces that have the most vertical grain, which again would actually be true rift sawn (where all of the pieces have near vertical grain).

"Quartersawn" actually refers to the way the log was cut up, and is not necessarily descriptive of the grain orientation in a particular piece of wood. Only a few of the boards from a quartersawn log will have 90 degree vertical grain. So when ordering lumber or guitar necks, it's probably better to specify "vertical grain" than "quartersawn."

Exactly! And the only way a sawyer could get the most amount of vertical grain boards from one log is by rift-sawing (or more descriptively, radial-sawing), not quarter-sawing.

I might be wrong here, but I do feel as there is some sort of broken telephone between the sawyer and builder (which ultimately gets inherited by the consumer), where eg. quarter-sawn means one thing to the sawyer (sawing pattern) and another to the builder (vertical grain). With rift-sawn, There seems to be even more confusion, as for a builder it would typically seem to indicate a grain pattern that is max 60 degrees to the face of the board, where as to the sawyer it would indicate a minimum of  60-70 degrees. 

Hi Jona,

I'm familiar with the ways a log can be sawn, or how a billet can be spit.   However, as I am not a debating fellow in the broad Church of the Internet,  I just answered the original question  and reiterate:  the neck was sold and no doubt advertised as quartersawn, which indeed it is. 

The difficulty here Jona is that if I ordered "vertical grain"  and after stringing up a plumb- bob and laser level I found it to be 89 degrees do I send it back or ask the forum what constitutes "vertical grain orientation".   



Yup, I hear you! Didn't mean to be cheeky, and I apologise if I seemed to be so! It's exactly because I know you guys know so much more about the subject matter, that I was curious to see whether you've run into this common misundertanding, and whether you'd have an opinion one way or the other.

For example, are you more picky about the grain angle when it comes to acoustic tops, and if so, how do you spec the wood for the sawmill? I realise this might be redundant since you probably anyway handpick the final wood.

Hi Jona,

Its difficult to judge what peeps want and at what level, so clarification is good.  I'm a boutique/artisan level builder in Australia so we do not have the leverage or inclination to press our suppliers for hand picked and hand graded "best of the best".  Most of our wood stock is pre CITES anyway and not replaceable so we use what we have and just get on with it.

Its a pointless exercise generally as the best quality wood is picked over upon receipt at the distributor/broker before onforwarding to the retail outlets.   This set aside wood  is sold out at premium prices to regular and continental based larger buyers and retailers before the dregs get shipped internationally where return is not economically viable.   Cynical? Nope, I've been doing this long enough to know when we are being fleeced.   If you have ever wondered why the Custom Shops and the large Boutique guys always seem to have the best stuff, stop wondering, its no accident.

Acoustic tops are probably one of the only areas where grain orientation and configuration matters - side bending is also a place where grain orientation is also a consideration.  Necks less so as long as the wood is dried or (now) toasted correctly - for mainstream neck width and thickness I'm not concerned about grain orientation with the exception of building for customers with inbred and unshakable perceptions and beliefs about grain orientation.   

As far as maple goes, Northern Hard Rock Maple is going to perform differently than fast grown pearly white maple grown way south of the border (Canadian).   So in that case grain orientation and rings per inch and species collide and permute in the "which one is best" equation and so the problems arise with incomplete knowledge of wood and its properties.  

So, more knowledge and comment would help here, anybody?



Hmm, there are apparently different definitions for quarter sawn and rift sawn here. If I had to make a determination, looking at the end view, I would say that it's closer to rift sawn than quarter sawn.

I would wager that the client really wanted a true 90 degree straight up and down quarter sawn neck and got something else. It's not a bad-looking neck, just not perfectly quarter sawn. Just my humble opinion.

For the record, about 40 years ago, I ordered two 2X10"X 10' Sitka spruce boards from a wood seller. They were to have been used for guitar tops. I specifically asked for quarter sawn. When they arrived, they were cut on about the same angle as the neck in question. The seller refused to take them back, telling me that they looked quartersawn enough for him. I bought some wood elsewhere to my liking.

I still have them stored in the top of my shop. I no longer build guitars so there they sit.

Interestingly enough (and maybe adding to the confusion) the Fender Custom Shop does seem to offer a rift-sawn neck (at a premium I would imagine):

Hi Jona,

With all respects, the only confusion here is that people without specific knowledge of timber and how its cut and used are getting their knickers in a twist about stuff that is is a cosmetic narrative.    I love to say , hey this neck has a perfect 90% grain/pure quartersawn etc etc - the premium price that this stuff could attract if one wished to gouge the customer is stupid.   Those in the business will remember when fiddle-back/birdseye/ quilt maple was used for basketball court floors because the figuring was considered a strength deficiency when using maple for structural purposes or "clean"  furniture presentation.  The rest is history with customers paying hundred to thousands extra for 10 tops etc.   

The sawmill guys cut the stuff all the same and when a log shows figure or spalting (rot and decay) or burl they throw that to one side making a "cah-ching" cash register sound.  There are around about twenty million maple trees planted each year along with the stuff that sprouts naturally - lotsa them have some figure and in the final analysis its just common, readily available,  cheaply harvested and processed  wood used to make stuff.   

Its also a specific market made attraction applied to particular species:   I don't see the Fender lovers salivating or tearing up about a quartersawn Alder or swamp Ash body - whereas the flats-sawn one piece (and one piece is a "sell" as well) bodies "cup"  seasonally putting different  stress on hardware and bridges etc - not really a problem but eventually some clever marketer will make it one and customers will start demanding two piece quarter or rift-sawn bodies because they are more stable than one piece flat-sawn.   And so it goes on.

However, if one likes the look of this stuff, that's fine - my observation here is that the premium prices and hype are disconnected from  any "cost of production" or properties/realities and that bothers me some.  We as luthiers should know better than to perpetuate myths and voodoo.     But as long as movie stars marry supermodels I guess we are stuck with worshiping the beauty or the look rather than the utility.

Somewhat tongue in cheek on a sunny Sunday morning, Rusty.


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