When a flat-sawn board has reversing grain it will usually exhibit a swirling grain pattern on its faces or edges, warning you that it could be difficult to plane.
I have always heard this swirl as being called a “cat’s face,” though I cannot remember where I first heard it. In 1993 in a hand tool class? Who knows.
Whenever I teach handplaning I warn students to look for a cat’s face nested amongst the cathedrals of the plainsawn boards. Mostly they think my explanation is nuts. So I point it out to them.
“Look. That’s a cat. See it?”
I swear that they don’t even humor me. And you wonder why I stopped teaching.
Today I was sanding down the first coat of paint on 1.2 miles of moulding for our new storefront and the sun reflected this perfect cat’s face. Our Cincinnati Zoo is famous for its white tigers, and that’s exactly what I saw.
Lucky I don’t have to plane that cat.
— Christopher Schwarz