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· In Loving Memory
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Curl is caused by the cambium, the single layer of dividing cells between the wood and the bark. It produces wood cells to the inside and bark cells to the outside. What causes the cambium to divide in a ripply, curly pattern? I don't think there is a definitive answer. It is just what nature does sometimes. It is beautiful, though.

Tiger stripes in oak are the medullary rays sliced open along their long axis (radially). All trees have them, but in most trees, they are only a couple of cells wide and are not prominently visible when sawn radially (quartersawn). However, in 4 species groups, they are much larger and are very prominently visible to the naked when viewed on an end grain slice. These species groups are the white oaks, the red oaks, beech (Oak is in the beech family), and sycamore.
 

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Straight grained wood grows like a broom, the grains running like the straws. In figured woods, these grains grow twisted or curled, wiggled, however they do; often times it is caused by growth stresses, other times it is just the nature of the tree. Tiger striping is generally caused more by the wood being "crushed" into more dense lines formed by the weight of the tree pushing downward on the living, growing cells; they have a hard time growing straight up. Once wiggled or bent, the new fibers grow in the same shape and bear the same stresses. Wood fibers in crotches and bent (hillside) trees do the same thing, sometimes growing whichever direction they can. The rays in oak ( and some other woods) are a natural occurrence, and usually much easier seen in a quarter sawn piece. The visual affects are more due to the reflective qualities of the wood; the sides of the fibers are shiny in comparison to the end grain, and when you mix the two you get a varying reflection that most think to be attractive.
 

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Funny thing… Half the maple trees on my land are on a high hill and are subjected to strong winds all year. The trees lower than the hill rarely have curly grain, while he ones on the hill almost always do. I have also seen some tree grow on angles where the ground is not level and I get twisted grain. Granted these are only limited observations, but my hobbiest research agrees with nomad and Danny.
 

· In Loving Memory
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gfadvm,

There are some other species with a noticeable ray fleck like your mulberry, cherry, and maple. It is visible on the quartersawn surface when sanded and finished. I particularly like it in cherry. It is a matter of degrees. Beautiful, just not as dramatic as in the oaks, beech, and sycamore. Don't you just love wood!
 

· In Loving Memory
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Danny, For me sawing a log is like opening a Christmas present! I got a load of your "devil trees" yesterday! 30" diameter standing dead hickory with 9' of straight trunk on each. We'll see how I like it…...
 

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There are two different types of curl that I have found. There is compression curl that you get at the bottom of the tree where the weight of the tree itself has crushed the gain into a curly pattern. Then there is genetic figure that is through out the whole tree, and what causes it is unknown.
 

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A friend had a huge maple taken down (carpenter ants were in it) in his small front yard by tree service guys and offered as much of it to me as I could haul away.

As I split that wood I was amazed at the ripple texture in which the log splitter cleaved the wood.

My point being that curly looks different when split than when sawn.

Sure wish I had pulled some out to play with on the band saw.
 

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Birdseye maple is a tree that has a specific issue, I'm too lazy to go look it up but they are similar to burls, just small and generally scattered about thru the wood like golf balls. Tree peeps in the forests of the East keep an eye on them as they are distinguishable by their bark patterns, waiting until they are of size then cutting them for us to use. I've had 1 big leaf maple with a similar pattern in it, but I guess that's not typical.
 

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its genetic, probably not much different then being born with blue eyes ?

if I were to offer a guess, with no scientific evidence to back up my theories, I would say, that it might be linked to being the lone survivor, of being trampled by a horse, a man, a dog, a moose, when it was just a sapling, and this living broken chewed and pissed on twig, …… lived long enough to die another day : )

I once heard of a beautiful cats paw, curly cherry tree, rich in its beauty, that had golf balls in it
 
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