Quartersawn means the direction of the cut according to the growth rings in a tree. Simply put, the board is cut quartering to the grain or an easier way to look at it is that the boards are cut out of the log like a piece of pie except it doesn’t taper at the center. That is also one of the reasons it is not used much anymore. When you cut a log like that you don’t get as much out of it.
The heyday of quartersawn oak was during the Arts and Crafts period particularly the mission style furniture. It was chosen by Gustav Stickley because it is stronger, less prone to checking, warping & splitting and it has a more refined grain pattern. This brings us to one of the main reasons quarter sawn is sought after: its grain pattern.
Quarter sawn white oak has very distinct stripes or “medullary rays” going across the board. The stripes are a unique feature of oak and why you see quartersawn furniture in red or white oak, in this day and age it’s typically white oak. Other woods can be quarter sawn but you just don’t get the same striking effect that oak has.
Today the Amish are largely responsible for most of the quartersawn furniture produced. They have adopted the Mission style and maintained the same attention to detail that Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustav Stickley insisted upon.