Skip to main content
Wood veneer is produced by veneer manufacturers in a variety of “industry standard” thicknesses. The slicing process is controlled by a number of variables. The thickness of the raw veneer has little bearing on the ultimate quality of the end product so long as show-through and sand-through is avoided.

Hardwood Veneer

Species: Available in many domestic and imported wood species. Normally sliced as plain sliced. Rift sliced and quarter sliced available in certain species at additional cost

Softwood Veneer

Species: Most common is Douglas Fir; Pines are available; other softwoods in limited supply. Most softwood veneer is Rotary sliced. Plain sliced softwood veneer and “vertical grain” (quarter sliced) softwood veneer are limited in availability with long lead times and higher prices associated with special orders. Rotary sliced softwood sheets are typically manufactured in various grades referring to the appearance of the face, back, and interior plies of the sheet and are intended for exterior (with a fully waterproof glue line) or interior(with a moisture resistant, but not waterproof, glue line). Clear faces, free of patches, are not typically available.

Veneer Grain

Grain might not match the grain of solid stock, and it might not accept transparent finishes in the same manner; additional finishing steps might achieve similar aesthetic value.

Figure

It is not a function of a species grade, and special desires must be so specified.

Special Characteristics

Items such as sapwood, heartwood, ribbon stripe, birdseye and comb grain, must be so specified.

Natural

A type of wood species selection. It allows an unlimited amount of heartwood and/or sapwood within a face and is the default selection, unless specified otherwise.

Select Red or White

Means all heartwood or all sapwood, respectively, and must be so specified.

Reconstituted Veneers

Logs that are first sliced into veneer leaves, the leaves may be dyed, then glued under pressure in a mold to produce a large laminated block. The laminated block is then sliced across the glue line to create a faux grain with a designed appearance that is highly repeatable. Not all pre-dyed veneers are colorfast, consult with manufacturer.

Photodegradation

The effect on the appearance of exposed wood faces caused by exposure to both sun and artificial light sources is called photo-degradation. If an entire face is exposed to a light source, it will photo-degrade somewhat uniformly and hardly be noticeable, whereas partially exposed surfaces or surfaces with shadow lines might show nonuniform photo-degradation. Some woods, such as American Cherry and Walnut, are more susceptible than others, and extra care should be taken to protect against the effects of nonuniform photo-degradation.

Oxidation

The effect on the appearance of exposed wood faces caused by exposure to atmosphere is called oxidation. This is analogous to browning reactions in freshly cut fruit; for instance, apples. Hardwoods can develop deep yellow to reddish brown discolorations on the surface of the wood when exposed to air immediately after sawing or peeling. These discolorations are especially noticeable on Cherry, Birch, Red Alder, Sycamore, Oak, Maple, and Sweet Gum. Some species, such as Alder, Oak, Birch, and Maple, develop these discolorations during air-seasoning. A related gray stain on several varieties of Southern Oaks also appears to be oxidative in nature.  Proper selection, sanding, and finishing can minimize the effects of oxidation.

Veneer Slicing

The manner in which a log segment is cut with relation to the annual rings will determine the appearance of the veneer. When sliced, the individual pieces of veneer, referred to as leaves, are kept in the order in which they are sliced, thus permitting a natural grain progression when assembled as veneer faces. The group of leaves from one slicing is called a flitch and is usually identified by a flitch number and the number of gross square feet of veneer it contains. The faces of the leaves with relation to their position in the log are identified as the tight face (toward the outside of the log) and the loose face (toward the inside or heart of the log). During slicing the leaf is stressed on the loose face and compressed on the tight face. When this stress is combined with the natural variation in light refraction caused by the pores of the wood, the result is a difference in the human perception of color and tone between tight and loose faces.

Chatoyancy

Chatoyancy

Commonly referred as “Barber Pole Effect”.Because the tight side and loose side of the veneer leaf faces alternate in adjacent pieces of veneer, they may accept stain differently, and this may result in a noticeable color variation. Book matching also accentuates cell polarization, causing the perception of different colors. These natural characteristics are often called barber pole and are not a manufacturing defect.

Four Common Veneer Slicing

Plain Slicing (or Flat Slicing)

 This is the slicing method most often used to produce veneers for architectural woodwork. Slicing is done parallel to a line through the center of the log. A combination of cathedral and straight grain patterns results, with a natural progression of pattern from leaf to leaf.

Plain Slicing (or Flat Slicing)

Quarter Slicing

This slicing simulates the quarter sawing process of solid lumber, roughly parallel to a radius line through the log segment. In many species the individual leaves are narrow as a result. A series of stripes is produced, varying in density and thickness from species to species. Fleck (sometimes called flake) is a characteristic of this slicing method in Red and White Oak.

Quarter Sliced

Rift Slicing

Rift veneers are produced most often in Red and White Oak. Note that rift veneers and rift sawn solid lumber are produced so differently that a “match” between rift veneers and rift sawn solid lumber is highly unlikely. In both cases the cutting is done slightly off the radius lines minimizing the “fleck” (sometimes called flake) associated with quarter slicing.

  • Comb Grain - Comb grain is a select product of the Rift process distinguished by tight, straight grain along the entire length of the veneer.

Rotary Slicing

The log is center mounted on a lathe and “peeled” along the general path of the growth rings like unwinding a roll of paper, providing a generally bold random appearance.Some species may possess a special figure, for example birds eye, which is achieved by rotary slicing.Careful consideration, specification, and communication are recommended when rotary cut is contemplated.

Rotary Slicing

Wood Veneer Species Chart

WOOD VENEER SPECIES CHART

WOOD VENEER SPECIES CHART

Matching Adjacent Wood Veneer Leaves

It is possible to achieve certain visual effects by the manner in which the leaves are arranged. Matching of adjacent wood veneer leaves, as with the effect of different veneer cuts, can alter the appearance of a given panel or an entire installation. To create a particular appearance, the veneer leaves of a flitch are edge glued together in patterns.Individual leaves of veneer in a sliced flitch increase or decrease in width as the slicing progresses. Thus, if a number of panels are manufactured from a particular flitch, the number of veneer leaves per panel face will change as the flitch is utilized. The manner in which these leaves are “laid up” within the panel requires specification.

Book Matching - A common match used in the industry. Every other piece of veneer is turned over so adjacent pieces (leaves) are opened like the pages of a book.Visual Effect -Veneer joints match, creating a symmetrical pattern. Yields maximum continuity of grain. When sequenced panels are specified, prominent characteristics will ascend or descend across the match as the leaves progress from panel to panel.

Book Matching

Slip Matching - Often used with quarter sliced and rift sliced veneers. Adjoining leaves are placed (slipped out) in sequence without turning, resulting in the same face sides being exposed.Visual Effect -Grain figure repeats; but joints do not show visual grain match.The lack of grain match at the joints can be desirable. The relatively straight grain patterns of quartered and rift veneers generally produce pleasing results and a uniformity of color because all faces have the same light refraction.

Slip Matching

Swing Match - Made by dividing the panel into multiple paired sets. For each paired set, two leaves of veneer are cut at half the width of the set. One of these two veneer leaves is rotated 180 degrees and joined to the other. This pair is then adjoined to the other pairs assembled in the same way.

Swing Match

Random Matching - Veneer leaves are placed next to each other in a random order and orientation, producing a “board by board” effect in many species.Visual Effect -Casual or rustic appearance, as though individual boards from a random pile were applied to the product. Conscious effort is made to mismatch grain at joints.Degrees of contrast and variation may change from panel to panel. This match is more difficult to obtain than book or slip match, and should be clearly specified and detailed.

Random Matching

End or Butt Matching - Often used to extend the apparent length of available veneers for high wall panels and long conference tables. Leaves are individually book (or slip) matched, first end to end and then side to side, alternating end and side.Visual Effect -Yields best continuous grain patterns for length as well as width. Minimizes misalignment of grain pattern.

End or Butt Matching

Matching Within Individual Panel Faces

The individual leaves of veneer in a sliced flitch increase or decrease in width as the slicing progresses. Thus, if a number of panels are manufactured from a particular flitch, the number of veneer leaves per panel face will change as the flitch is utilized. The manner in which these leaves are “laid up” within the panel requires specification, and is classified as follows:

Running Match
The panel face is made from components running through the flitch consecutively. Any portion of a component left over from a face is used as the beginning component or leaf in starting the next panel.

Running Match

Balance Match
Each panel face is assembled from veneer leaves of uniform width before edge trimming. Panels may contain an even or odd number of leaves, and distribution may change from panel to panel within a sequenced set.

Balance Match

Balance and Center Match
Each panel face is assembled of an even number from veneer leaves of uniform width before edge trimming. Thus, there is a veneer joint in the center of the panel, producing horizontal symmetry. A small amount of figure is lost in the process. Considered by some to be the most pleasing assembly at a modest increase in cost over Balance Match.

Balanced and Center Match

Slip, Center, Book Match
Each panel face is assembled of an even (four or more) number of veneer leaves. The veneer leaves are laid out as a slip matched panel face; then at the center, one half of the leaves are booked to the other half. Quarter and rift sliced veneers are generally used for this match, which allows for a pleasing balance of sweep and character marks.

Slip, Center, Book Match

Matches Between Panels
Veneered panels used in casework or paneling in the same area may be matched to each other. This important component of the project must be carefully detailed and specified. The natural growth patterns of the tree will cause the figure on the sequential panels to ascend, descend, or show a “grain progression” as the eye moves from panel to panel. The four common methods are:

  • Not Matched - Veneered panels are generally manufactured without matching and may or may not be similar in grain and color.
  • Sequence Matched - Veneered panels may be sourced and/or manufactured in sequence. These panels will be well matched for grain and color.
  • Sequence Matched & Custom Width - Generally veneered panels are manufactured in 4’x 8’ and occasionally in 4’x 10’ panels. The design professional may specify veneered sequence panels in custom width for the specific project and/or elevation. These panels will be well matched for grain and color.
  • Blueprint Matched - The design professional may specify blueprint matched panels which will be custom sized height and width as well as sequencing for the specific project and/or elevation. These panels will be matched for grain and color.

Specialty or Sketch Matches of Wood Veneers

There are regional variations in the “names” of the following veneer leaf matching techniques, drawn as squares for simplicity. It is strongly recommended that the design professional use both names and drawings to define the desired effect, using a rectangle, polygon, circle, ellipse, or other shape. Rift sliced, quarter sliced, and highly figured veneers are generally used for these specialty matches. The different matches of veneer cause the reflection of light to vary from adjoining 
leaves, bringing “life” to the panel. Due to the inherent nature of the layup process, alignment at corners might vary.

Sunburst Match

Made of six or more veneer leaves cut at the appropriate angle with the grain radiating from the center. These veneer leaves are then book matched, assembled, and trimmed for final size.

Sunburst Match

Box Match
Made of four leaves with the grain running parallel to the perimeter of the panel. The leaves are cut at the appropriate angle and end matched.

BoxMatch

Reverse or End Grain Box Match
Made of four leaves with the grain running at right angles to the perimeter of the panel. The leaves are cut at the appropriate angle and book matched.

Reverse of End Grain Box Match

Diamond Match
Made of four leaves with the grain running 45 degrees to the perimeter of the panel and surrounding the center. The leaves are cut at the appropriate angle and end matched.

Diamond Match

Reverse Diamond Match
Made of four leaves with the grain running 45 degrees to the perimeter of the panel and radiating from the center. The leaves are cut at the appropriate angle and book matched.

Reverse Diamond Match

Herringbone or V Book Match
One or more pairs of assembled slipped or booked leaves. Each assembled set of leaves is cut at generally 45 degrees to one edge of the panel. The assembled set of leaves is then end matched to the adjoining assembled set of leaves.

Herringbone or V Book Match

Parquet Match
Made by dividing the panel into multiple equal sized pieces and cutting the veneer to the same size. Each veneer leaf is joined at right angles to the adjoining piece of veneer.

Parquet Match

Book and Butt Match
Made by book matching highly figured veneer leaves (such as burl) 1, 3, 5, and 7 (set A) of the 8 leaf sequence. The remaining leaves 2, 4, 6, and 8 (set B) are also book matched. Set B is then flipped up and over the top end of set A, resulting in an end match.

Book and Butt Match

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Get access to the rest of this article now with a FREE trial membership. You’ll enjoy more educational content like this, including plans, videos, seminars and more to help you craft the very best woodworking project.