Grain direction

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Contributors: Allison Miller

(Wood) In wood, grain direction refers to the longitudinal, or vertical, axis of the trunk, along which the structural cells are elongated (Cronyn 1990). It is the texture seen on the cut surface of a piece of wood.

Grain direction can also refer to The direction in which the greater number of fibers are oriented in paper or board. As applied to cloth, the term refers to the way the fibers are woven. In any case, the orientation of fibers tends to make the material stiffer in the direction parallel to those fibers, and more flexible and likelier to curl in the direction perpendicular to them. The former is the grain direction; the latter is the cross direction. [1] Grain direction can be considered either short or long, depending on whether it runs parallel to the long or short side of the paper dimension[2] With regards to book-making Grain direction in all materials used in bookbinding should run parallel to the spine of a volume [3] --TFann (talk) 21:38, 26 October 2015 (CDT)

Related Terms

rays, vessels, figure, growth rings

Synonyms in English

wood grain


English grain direction
French la direction du grain
Spanish dirección de la fibra
Portuguese direção das fibras
Italian direzione delle fibre
German Faserrichtung


The tree fibers may grow straight up and down in a tree, or they may encircle the trunk in a spiral pattern. In woodworking, the most common features used to determine the grain direction of a piece of wood are rays, vessels, and figure. Figure is the more specific term used in woodworking for what is generally called grain, which are the alternating darker and lighter lines and ovals formed from the tree’s growth rings. Grain direction is most commonly heard in phrases such as “going against the grain”, which results in what is called tear-out, when the wood fibers have been lifted up causing a rough surface (Gochnour 2004). When performing a visual examination of archaeological wood, it is important to record the grain direction, along with other construction and technological details.

Features used to determine grain direction of wood (Gochnour 2004)


Cronyn, J.M. 1990. The Elements of Archaeological Conservation. New York: Routledge.

Gochnour, Chris. 2004. “Determining Grain Direction.” Fine Woodworking, September/October.

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