All Replies on How does one tell 'grain direction' for planing...

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View Jim Deatsch's profile

How does one tell 'grain direction' for planing...

by Jim Deatsch
posted 12-19-2018 02:25 PM

12 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


3414 posts in 2681 days

#1 posted 12-19-2018 02:36 PM

Just look at the lines on the edges of you board. Very few woods show no lines.
It’s also a good practice to mark the lines with a pencil when you’re sure of the direction.
Is there a particular wood your having trouble with.

-- Aj

View Robert's profile


4051 posts in 2364 days

#2 posted 12-19-2018 02:45 PM

Yes it definitely does Jim!! Reading grain direction is not always a straightforward thing.

I usually look at the edge of the board and follow the grain. The direction the grain is rising to the top is the grain direction. The other side of the board will be the opposite direction—usually ;-) ;-).

If the board had a cathedral pattern on the face, then look at the end of the board. On the outside of the board (rings curving up/top of tree up) plane into the points, inside of tree plane with the points (check me on this LJ’s)

On some species of wood such as mahogany or walnut, or figured wood it can be very difficult to read the grain. Also, on any particular board the grain can be indeterminate, it can even go one way, then reverse. If there is a knot in the board you will have an issue, too.

Bottom line I find it easier to read the edge of the board, then look at the face and evaluate for swirls or knots. On highly figured boards, I don’t even run them through a planer, I do it by hand. That is where a spiral head planer helps.

There are many good article on reading grain.

Hope this has helped you.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View TimInIndiana's profile


161 posts in 1023 days

#3 posted 12-19-2018 02:49 PM

Check out this life-changing pantyhose trick!

How is that for a clickbait title?

View HokieKen's profile


15158 posts in 2022 days

#4 posted 12-19-2018 02:53 PM

I look at the edge too. Whichever way the lines are rising is the grain direction for the face to which they are rising. It’s not fullproof, grain can change direction but it’s the best way I’ve found. I’ve heard of the pantyhose tip too but never tried it.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6507 posts in 3377 days

#5 posted 12-19-2018 04:12 PM

The panty hose trick is one I’ve heard and never tried, but i intend to. Often I find I can feel the grain by rubbing my fingertip over the edge in both directions, with the grain is much smoother on many woods, but not all, woods.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Rich's profile


5987 posts in 1473 days

#6 posted 12-19-2018 04:21 PM

You can feel it with your hand the same way the panty hose idea works. An added bonus is that you won’t have to have that awkward moment where you’re trying to tell the cashier at Walgreens that they are for woodworking, not wearing.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Aj2's profile


3414 posts in 2681 days

#7 posted 12-19-2018 04:33 PM

One more point I would like to make. If your getting tear back and you’ve tried turning the board around and still having problems. You should look at the knives are set right? are they sharp. If everything checks out then it’s as good as it gets.
Carry on. And welcome to woodworking :)

-- Aj

View Phil32's profile (online now)


1145 posts in 787 days

#8 posted 12-19-2018 07:26 PM

The board may have waves that can cause tear out in either direction. Maybe try a shallower depth of cut?

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View OpensideFlanker's profile


14 posts in 1192 days

#9 posted 12-19-2018 08:05 PM

I always try to predict the grain but I must admit that sometimes I get it totally wrong and can’t quite figure out how that happened. I can’t speak to power tools but sometimes even when planing seems to be going well, the opposite direction will be even better. That happens more often with planing edges for joinery than it does planing up faces. Often I find it simpler to just take a fine set plane and try both ways.
+1 on marking the direction once you get it right.

View a1Jim's profile


118143 posts in 4460 days

#10 posted 12-20-2018 02:06 AM

View northy185's profile


13 posts in 684 days

#11 posted 12-20-2018 02:10 AM

How is that for a clickbait title?

Worked on me! Great tip, thanks for sharing.

View Jim Deatsch's profile

Jim Deatsch

18 posts in 736 days

#12 posted 12-20-2018 02:56 PM

WOW. I’m smarter than I was now thanks to all your great replies.

I thank all of you, truly. This set of forums has been such an education for me.

I’m moving ahead now, smarter, and even more out of control. :-)


-- It's 5 o'clock somewhere. Scott Kalitta

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