Each piece of wood has a unique grain pattern, color, and texture, based on the natural growth characteristic of the tree from which it is cut. This combination of characteristics is called the figure. The grain of the wood includes the pattern of the annual growth rings and the difference in color and texture between old and new growth. A tree that grows straight produces a straight grain, while a tree that bends or curves, or has an irregular cell structure produces an irregular or wavy grain. Fine, even textured wood is a result of the cells of the wood being small and densely packed, and consistent growth of earlywood and latewood. Coarse, uneven texture is the result of larger cell structure, and a marked difference in earlywood and latewood. This is particularly important in finished pieces of furniture such as cabinets, chairs and tables, and in veneers where unusual figuring is desirable. Wood with a straight grain and fine texture produces a smoother cut. Sanding and planing with the grain results in a smooth, even surface which is easier to carve and finish. Wood with irregular grain, and a coarse, uneven texture is sometimes difficult to cut, and results in an uneven finish and light and dark spots.

The grain of wood also depends on the part of the tree that is cut. Most wood used in furniture is quartersawn and produces a subtle, even grain. Sometimes wood cut from the fork of the tree, or the stump, or an imperfection produces an unusual grain with a unique pattern.

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