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Why choose Wood
The Miracle Product
How Woods are Named

Story of Veneer and Plywood

Sources of veneer from a tree
Veneer Cutting Methods
Veneer Matching Methods
Veneer Figures
Tree Trivia


2 ply veneer: A decorative wood veneer face with a utility grade wood backer applied at an opposing direction to the face veneer. Also referred to as wood on wood.

Backs: The reverse side to the face of a plywood panel. Generally, the poorer side of any grade plywood panel calling for a face and a back.

Bark Pocket: A small area of bark around which normal wood has grown.

Bird's Eye: Due to local sharp depressions in the annual rings, accompanied by considerable fiber distortions. Once the depressions are formed, succeeding growth rings follow the same contour for many years. Rotary veneer cuts the depressions crosswise, and shows a series of circlets called bird's eyes. It occurs only in a small percentage of Maple trees.

Block Mottle: An irregular variegation in the cellular structure of the wood which shows as blocky patches across the grain of the veneer. It is commonly found in makore and anigre.

Book Matching: Achieved when successive veneer leaves in a flitch are turned over like the pages in a book and are glued in this manner. Since the reverse side of one leaf is a mirror image of the succeeding leaf, the result is a series pairs. Individual panels can be matched this way or you can achieve this look over many panels by sequence-matching the panels. Book matching is the most common match. A common problem in book matching is when the "tight" and "loose" sides are matched and reflect light and stains differently. This may yield color variations in some species which may be minimized by proper finishing techniques.

Burl Veneer: Produced from a large, wartlike growth on the trunk of the tree. The grain pattern typically resembles a series of eyes laid side by side. Obviously the veneers leaf sizes are generally small and additionally are defective. While producing beautiful patterns, burl veneer is difficult to work with.

Butt Matching: Achieved when veneers are matched as described for book matching but the ends of the sheets are also matched. At times, the veneer being used is not long enough to cover the desired panel heights. In this case the veneer leaves can also be flipped end for end and the ends matched.

Cathedral: A grain appearance characterized by a series of stacked "V" and inverted "V". Pattern common in plain-sliced (flat-cut) veneer.

Center Matching: Each panel face is made with an even number of flitch sheets with a center line appearing at the midpoint of the panel and an equal number of veneer sheets on each side of the center line. The number of leaves on the face are always even, but the widths are not necessarily the same.

Core: The innermost portion of plywood usually composed of veneer. Also referred to as a "centre." A core may also be made of fibreboards, particleboard or lumber.

Crossband: The veneer sheet between the core and face veneer. Its grain runs at right angles to the grain of adjacent layers, thereby providing the remarkable stability of hardwood plywood.

Crossbar: An imperfection or irregularity in the grain of wood running at right angles to the length of the Board.

Crotch Veneer:
Produced from the portion of the tree just below the point where it forks into two limbs. The grain is twisted, creating a variety of flame figures. Often resembles a well formed feather. The outside of the block produces a swirl figure that changes to full crotch flame figure as the cutting approaches the center of the block.

Curly Figure: Found mostly in Maple or Birch, and is due to the fibers being distorted and producing a wavy or curly effect in the veneer.

Edgeband: Thin strips of veneer used to cover the exposed edges of panel substrates. This veneer is usually available in rolls of various length and comes either pre-glued or unglued.

Face: The better side of any plywood panel in which the outer plies are of different veneer grades. Also veneer spliced to a certain pattern and cut to exact size.

Fiddle Back: A fine, strong, even, ripple figure as frequently seen on the backs of violins. It is found principally in Mahogany and Maple; cut occurs sometimes in other woods.

Figure: The pattern produced in a wood surface by annual growth rings, rays, knots, deviations from natural grain such as interlocked and wavy grain, and irregular coloration. Appears across the grain. Mottle, fiddleback and raindrop are often called cross figure or cross fire.

Flake, Fleck Figure: Flake figure is developed only in those species which have very heavy medullary ray growth, specifically Oak, Lacewood, and Sycamore. When the saw or knife cut is directly on or near to the radial, it is close to parallel with the medullary ray and therefore develops the "Flake" effect.

Flat Cut: Also called Plain Slicing, it is the most common method of veneer manufacturing, producing a grain pattern known as cathedral. Because each leaf in the flitch is similar, a consistent and even matching pattern is possible. Flat cut veneer is ideally suited for wall panels and furniture.

Flexible Veneer: Wood veneer which is joined, processed, sanded and backed with paper or other material to create a fully ready to use dimensional sheet of real wood veneer.

Flitch: A Section of a log made ready for cutting into veneers. After cutting, all bundles are laid together in sequence as they were sliced.

Grain: Size and arrangement of the cells and pores of the living tree. Grain is not synonymous with figure. Woods fall into three groups: Fine grained (Birch, Cherry, Maple, etc.), medium grained (Walnut, Mahogany, etc.) and coarse grained (Oak, etc.).) Coarser grained woods can usually be cut to develop a more conspicuous pattern.

Gum: Patches or black spots occurring primarily in American Cherry. This undesirable characteristic is acceptable in varying degree in most grades of Cherry.

Half Round Slicing: Similar to rotary peeling, also producing a high veneer yield. Used primarily to add width to narrow stocks by increasing the plane of cut. Also used to enhance a particularly wild grain pattern. Matching is possible because the leaves can be kept in sequence. Half round cutting may be used to achieve "flat cut" veneer appearance.

Hardwood: General term used to designate lumber or veneer produced from broad-leafed or deciduous trees in contrast to softwood, which is produced from evergreens or coniferous trees.

Heartwood: The non-active center of a tree generally distinguishable from the outer portion (sapwood) by its darker color.

Herringbone: Veneer strips are used and matched to both sides of the center line, at an angle. The resulting appearance is reminiscent of the bones of a fish as they are attached to the back bone.

Knot: circular portion of a board or veneer that was once the base of a branch or twig growing from the trunk of a tree.

Knot (Open): Opening produced when a portion of a knot has dropped out or separated due to seasoning.

Knot (Pin): Sound knots less than 1/4" in diameter.

Knot (Sound): Knots that are solidly fixed by growth and retain their place in lumber or veneer.

Knothole: Opening produced when knots drop from the wood in which they were once embedded.

Lamination: The process of gluing or bonding the component sections of the plywood into a single permanent until stronger than the original wood itself.

Looseside: In knife-cut veneer, that side of the sheet that was in contact with the knife as the sheet was being cut. The bending of the wood at the knife edge causes cutting checks.

Mineral Streak: A dark patch or discoloration in the wood which occurs because of the presence of minerals in the soil in which the tree is growing.

Mottle Figure: A variegated pattern which consists principally of irregular, wavy fibers extending for short distances across the face. If there is also some irregular cross figure in a log with a twisted interwoven grain, the broken stripe figure becomes a mottle.

Pommele Figure: Comes from the French word, "Pomme" (Pomme = Apple). The term given to a regular veneer marking which resembles apples.

Quarter Slicing / Cut: This cut requires the largest diameter logs and produces straight grained veneers. The quarter slicing of oak can result in the appearance of flake.

Quilted Figure: A larger , more exaggerated version of pommele or blister figure. The cellular figure is elongated and closely crowded giving it a pillowy three dimensional effect. It is most commonly found in Maple, Mahogany, Moabi and Sapele.

Random Matched / Planked: A panel having the face made up of specially selected dissimilar (in color and grain) veneer strips of the same species to stimulate lumber planking.

Raw Veneer: Wood veneer cut from any log by any slicing method that is dried and then used as a natural flitch or leaf of veneer. Much production and machining of this veneer has to be accomplished prior to the final application to a substrate.

Reconstituted Veneer: A man-made veneer which uses real wood fiber with natural colorants to simulate various color, figure and grain seen in real wood veneers.

Ribbon Stripe: Result of quarter-slicing a log and the appearance actually is between broken stripe and plain stripe. It gives the general appearance of a ribbon sometimes slightly twisted.

Rift Cut: Produced by cutting at a slight angle to the radial to produce a quartered appearance without excessive ray flake. The rift cut method, commonly used for Oak, can only be used on sizable logs. Rift cut veneer can easily be sequenced and matched.

Ropey Figure: If the twist in the grain of broken stripe is all in one direction, a rope figure results.

Rotary Slicing: The log is turned in a circular motion against a knife, peeling off a continuous thin sheet of wood veneer (like unrolling wrapping paper). It is the most economical method of producing veneer, resulting in the highest yield. The grain is inconsistent and leaves are most difficult to match. This type of veneer is best suited for paint grade or utility surfaces.

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

Sapwood: This is the outer portion of the tree. As additional layers of growth accumulate on the outer perimeter, the inner layers of the sapwood becomes heartwood. Sap is lighter in color and the differentiation in color and thickness of the sap layer varies considerably by species.

Sequence Matching: A method of arranging veneer faces such that each face is in order relative to its original position in the tree and, therefore, contains features of grain and figures similar to adjacent faces.

Sliced: Veneer produced by thrusting a log or sawn flitch into a slicing machine which shears off the veneer in sheets.

Slip Matching: Means that veneer leaves in a flitch are "slipped." Successive veneer leaves in a flitch are "slipped" one alongside the other and edge-glued in this manner. The result is a series of grain repeats, but no pairs. The danger with this method derives from the fact that grain patterns are rarely perfectly straight. Sometimes a grain pattern "runs off" the edge of the leaf. A series of leaves with this condition could usually make a panel look like it is leaning. In the book matching the pairs balance each other.

Softwood: General term used to describe lumber or veneer produced from needle and/or cone-bearing trees. (See Hardwood).

Spliced Face Veneer: Face veneers that have been joined in any one of several matching effects through the careful factory process of tapeless splicing.

Streaks, Mineral: Natural discolorations of the wood substance.

Stump Veneer: Produced from the base of the tree. Here the grain pattern is always swirly twisted and often accompanied by cross fire and patches of burl. The sizes are normally small.

Swirl Grain: A lesser degree of crotch figure. The grain tends to swirl around in a random pattern. This figure frequently appears in cherry, mahogany, walnut and maple.

Tight Side: In knife-cut veneer, that side of the sheet that was farthest from the knife as the sheet was being cut and containing no cutting checks (lathe checks).

Veneer: A thin sheet of wood, rotary cut, sliced or sawn from a log or flitch. Veneering goes back to the early days of the Egyptians, about 3,500 years ago. Down through the years and cultures, veneering has enriched furniture and architectural interiors with sheets of rare and beautiful woods bonded to other plain, sturdy wood based substrates to form a panel.

Veneer Log: Logs, either hardwood or softwood, which have specific characteristics or traits which qualify them to be sliced for veneer only. Less than 5% of all logs are of veneer quality.