Once upon a time, in the small town of Emlenton, a small sawmill connected with with Stickley Furniture and the Japanese furniture market and began producing the best Rift & Quartered Sawn Red Oak and White Oak in the world.
Larry Hickman had a hunch that there was a demand for rift & quartered sawn and started quartering logs in the late 1970s. Hickman Lumber put an ad in The Hardwood Market Review and received a call from Alfred Audi one afternoon while he was on his way to the High Point Furniture trade show in North Carolina. This began our relationship with Stickley Furniture.
Stickley Furniture gained international prominence in the early 20th century with their oak furniture. They were known for their solid construction, high quality, and especially for the gorgeous organic forms of quartered sawn oak that created a stunning design. Mr. Audi was the son of a salesman of Stickley Furniture back when the Stickley brothers were living and business was good. He bought Stickley just as it was ready to close down with hopes of rejuvenating the company and that he did with help from Hickman Lumber’s quality rift & quartered white oak.
Around the same time Leo Kou, (to whom I knew as “Uncle Leo”) found us and was looking for rift & quartered Red & White Oak for the furniture market in Japan. I remember him when I was young and his whole family coming to visit. We actually still exchange Christmas card pictures to this day.
The Japanese had high standards for their lumber which would be separated into 4 different grades.
- Rift straight grain
- Heavy fleck (quartered)
- Wavy grain
- Spacing of annual growth rings
The Japanese were very picky with their wood products and were particular about the grains in the wood and how it flowed with the furniture. A lot of time was spent with them here giving us direction on what exactly they were needed. Someone had told Denny once that they considered the heavy fleck of the quarter sawn obnoxious for their taste. Stickley was just the opposite favoring the heavy quartered sawn characteristics for their style. Hickman Lumber was able to meet both of their stringent requirements and became experts in the industry of rift & quartered lumber with a high reputation within the industry.
Like everything in life things change. Asia had a huge financial market collapse and business was quickly disappearing and we started to look for other ways to use our rift & quartered sawn. That’s when we started our Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring. That started and we had such high demand that we needed so much lumber to support it.
That’s our story in a nutshell about Hickman Lumber became to be what it is today and what factors drove us to making the best rift and quartered sawn on the market.
So what exactly is the Rift & Quartered Sawn and why is it so special?
* Visual Design
The reasoning for wanting Rift & Quartered Sawn floors lies in the dimensional stability over the flat or plain sawn. It is the best option for radiant floors & wide plank.
In regards to Flooring –it’s important because of the natural shrinkage and expansion in wood flooring. With rift & quartered sawn the width of the boards will not move like with the flat sawn creating gaps in the floor.
It starts when a log is cut into quarters, then a board is cut off, the quarter is turned 90° and another board is cut, this process is repeated until there is not enough left to cut. This process will create a mix of rift & quartered sawn, Quartered sawn logs are in the center of the log where the growth rings are 90° and as we move to the outside of the log and the growth rings are from 35° – 65° the rift sawn boards are cut.
Rift & Quartered Sawn also has a unique visual design. The surface has a mix of the straight grain from the rift sawn and the wavy flecks on from the quarter sawn pieces.
White Oak Quarter sawn’s distinguishing characteristic is the presence of the flecks which look like peculiar wavy lines, technically called medullary rays, which bind the perpendicular fibers together and give the oak tree its amazing strength. The preservation of the binding properties of these rays gives remarkable structural strength to the wood, which is much less liable to crack, check or warp than when it is plain sawn.
When a log is quartered sawn the flecks are parallel to the surface of the board. That’s what causes the brilliant displays of figure in the white oak.
Rift sawn creates a very straight grain surface of flooring. It’s commonly used for herringbone and museums like the look because it’s very clean and straight.
The annual rings are at a 35° – 65° angle to the surface creating a very stable floor as well.
Our Rift sawn lumber occurs during the latter process of the quarter sawn production