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12th Jun 2023
Markings in Oak Furniture
Understanding the Beauty of Medullary Rays in Oak Wood

Understanding the Beauty of Medullary Rays in Oak Wood


Oak furniture often exhibits small white marks or specks that may be mistaken for water damage or storage issues. These marks, known as Medullary Rays, are actually a natural feature of oak wood that adds charm, character, and overall beauty to each furniture piece.

The Nature of Medullary Rays:

Medullary Rays, also referred to as pith rays, oak figures, or tiger stripes, are horizontal rays that extend from the core of a tree towards the bark. They are present in all trees, but are most pronounced in red oak and quartersawn white oak. These rays manifest themselves in various ways across the face of the wood.

Causes of Medullary Rays:

Medullary Rays are formed by plant cells that stretch away from the tree's cells or growth rings. These ribbon-like cells carry sap through the trunk, making them an essential part of the tree's growth process. When the trunk is cut, these cells produce silvery marks on the sawn area, which become more prominent when the oak is polished, varnished, or oiled.

Misconceptions and Significance:

Medullary Rays are often mistaken for damage or flaws in the wood. However, they are actually indicative of furniture items made from the finest and most expensive quarter-sawn wood. Quarter-sawn timber, which is produced through a slower process, possesses greater strength and displays a higher number of medullary rays on its surface.

Other Natural Timber Markings:

Apart from medullary rays, there may be other markings on oak furniture that are natural characteristics of the timber used in its construction. Cracks or splits known as Shakes are typically filled and do not pose a concern. Checks are cracks caused by tension in the outer parts of a tree and are not problematic if they are surface-level. Knots, circular or oval-shaped markings, occur when new branches grow or due to tree scarring. These natural features contribute to the unique and interesting personality of real wood.

Appreciating Medullary Rays:

Just like knots and other natural markings, medullary rays should be embraced as part of the appeal and charm of oak furniture. They signify the many years a tree has lived through, adding to the beauty and uniqueness of each piece.

Medullary Rays as a Sign of Quality:

Medullary rays are indeed a sign of furniture made from the finest organic materials. At Upholstery Designs, we carefully select the highest quality oak for our collections, so you may find these beautiful rays in the timber we use. We encourage our customers to take pride in and appreciate the naturally occurring markings in their wooden pieces, as they represent sophistication, quality, and fine craftsmanship.


When admiring your oak furniture, the silver sparks of light along its surface serve as a reminder of the painstaking labor and love invested in its creation. Medullary rays are not flaws, but rather unique features that enhance the allure and individuality of each piece. Embrace the natural beauty of medullary rays and let them be a source of pride in your home.

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Upholstery Designs
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