Here's my guess when it comes to this stuff:
The direction of the wood fibers is the grain, the "figure" is the curly (or quilt, birdseye, etc.).
In other words, "figure" is that part of the grain which causes a plank of wood to go from $3/BF to $12/BF.
Go figure! :laughing:
On a similar note, here's a question I've been meaning to ask about purchase etiquette:
I have a mill nearby that stocks curly maple, but it's all rough sawn, of course... and obviously, each board varies in its curl. You can barely see it, but it's there, to varying degrees.
The mill will do an S2S for just a few bucks extra, which is worth it to me because I don't have a planer.
The problem for me is that I've discovered that it's a crapshoot. I've selected boards that I thought would be killer, only to find that that they're kind of plain and ho-hum after they've been planed.
And then one day, assuming I'd get more "ho-hum" and being in a hurry, I just grabbed a board simply because it was the length I was looking for. The guy planed it, and the mill literally shut down for the next 20 minutes because he had everyone else in the shop come over to see the killer curl that existed on this board. (and yeah, it was the best I've seen, outside of antiques).
So what's the rule on picking the best curl?
I thought about bringing in a rag and a bucket of water and wiping down each piece to try to enhance the curl to see its potential, though I don't know if that's kosher, or even if it'd help.
Otherwise, I'd need to get a number of boards planed down, and then pick and choose from there... but that won't work, I get the feeling that in this mill, once they plane it for you, you've bought it.
Would the water routine help pick the best curl? I think they'd be cool with that if I asked.