Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Matching Grain is Worth the Effort

Many of my projects require glued-up hardwood panels. The trick is to make the panel look like a single, wide piece of wood. A "bad match" can be really distracting, as you can see in the photo, below left. But by carefully matching the grain, the glue joints practically "disappear." This gives the entire project a more professional look.
If you're lucky enough to find lumber that's still stacked straight from the mill, your job will be easy. The color and grain patterns will match because the boards likely came from the same log.

But since I prefer not to count on luck, I always look for boards with the same general type of grain patterns. I flip as many boards as possible over and spin them end for end to see if I can find grain that matches. It's sort of like fitting jigsaw puzzle pieces. (Just be sure to restack the boards neatly in the rack.)

The puzzle is completed in the shop when I'm choosing which boards work best together. For instance, the two photos below show the same two boards set together. The only difference is that the board on the right was spun 180°.

Now I'll admit the colors of the boards didn't match the greatest. Ideally, they should match as well as the grain. But if you find a good grain match, stain can help make slight color variations more uniform.

Bad Match — One of the boards above has a figured spot where an intersecting branch grew. It clashes with the straight grain.
Good Match — Even though the color varies slightly, the grain in the two boards matches much better in this orientation.

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