Figure is genetic and only found in a small percentage of trees.
It is highly prized by furniture makers and luthiers alike.
Below are some of the terms we use to
describe the figure of our wood.
One or two terms are often combined.
Strong figure throughout the entire board.
Strong figure that may fade toward the edges.
Good figure, but not throughout.
Subtle or light figure.
Little or no figure.
Bearclaw is found in softwoods. It looks a bit like it
sounds, like a bear used the tree to sharpen its claws
and left small waves in the grain which may or
may not be symmetrical on both sides of the top.
Beeswing figure is random, sporadic and disconnected.
It has a mottled appearance that can be
very intense and beautiful.
Birdseye figure shows an erratic arrangement of tiny,
knot-like ("eye"-shaped) patternsin the wood.
(Also referred to as curly, fiddleback ot tiger-stripe)
Flame figure runs perpendicular to the grain and adds a
three-dimensional, liquid quality to the wood surface
that appears "flame-like"– especially when finished.
Quilted figure displays pillowy, oval shapes that can be very three-dimensional and "quilt-like" in appearance.
Spalt patterning, caused by the bacterial decomposition
of dead wood, looks like an irregular black ink line
that does not follow any specific grain pattern.
Spalted wood is a nice choice for inlay and electric guitar
tops, but not for thin acoustic guitar plates.
Waterfall figure is likened to a very soft, broad
and undefined quilt pattern. The liquidy,
three dimensional texture of the wood
seems full of fluid motion – like a "waterfall".
For more details see our "" article.