Veneer Figures

Bird's Eye - Characterized by its scattered circles or ovals that have a similar appearance to that of a bird's eye. This type of figure is found almost exclusively in Hard Maple.

Burl (or Burr) Veneer - Veneer obtained from rare woody outgrowths appearing on trees around grafts or injuries. This produces an appearance of a close arrangement of many small eyes or knots intermingled with distorted grain. The unusual patterns of burls make them in high demand but also more expensive due to their small size and scarcity.


Crossfire - This term is used to describe all of the various figure marks running perpendicular to the veneer grain. In some wood species the crossfire is a contrast of color, while others appear as an irregularity of the grain creating the illusion of horizontal marks.

Crotchwood - This type of figure occurs where limbs emerge from the tree trunk. The high amounts of fiber distortion at this junction results in a feather or flame pattern appearance. Mahogany is the most common specie with this type of figuring.

Curly - The term used for a wavy or curly figuring produced by distorted fiber growth that reflects light differently. Most commonly available in Walnut and Maple veneers.

Fiddleback - A term describing consistent ripple figure running across the grain. Fiddleback is not commonly found but occasionally occurs in Mahogany, English Sycamore, and Anigre. The term fiddleback comes from the veneer's popularity in making violin backs.

Flake - This is found only in species that have prominent medullary rays (cells radiating outward from the center of the tree, like the spokes of a wheel.) By slicing the veneer perpendicular to the annular rings and parallel with the rays, a distinctive "flake" within the figure is created.

Mottle - Mottle is the intermingling of broken cross markings with stripe figure. Block mottle involves broad cross markings producing a patch effect and is commonly found in Makore. Bees-wing-mottle is very small, fine figure and often occurs in Sapele, Satinwood and Black Bean.

Plain Stripe and Ribbon Stripe - The figure is straight and parallel with the length of veneer as a result of quarter slicing the log. Ribbon stripe is similar but with variable width bands, alternating light and dark, that create the appearance of ribbons.

Peanut Shell - A quilted or blistered figure that incorporates a dominant grain or yearring pattern. Mostly found in Tamo or Bubinga.

Pommele - Pommele gets its name from the French word for "apple." The figure resembles small round or oval circles that can overlap each other. Sometimes a log that has larger and more sparsely occurring "apples" can be referred to as blistered.


Quilted - This figuring is produced by rotary or half-round slicing of logs that have a "bumpy" surface. The uneven weaving of the growth rings produces a quilted, three-dimensional effect. Maple and Mahogany are species often available with quilted figure.


Recomposed or Man-made Veneers - These veneers are sliced from man-made "cants" that have been laminated, or resliced, to produce distinctive figures or patterns.

Veneer Cuts

Flat Cut or Plain Sliced - (defined by a cathedral or heart) Half a log is mounted on a large steel rack which moves up and down through a stationary knife through a series of vertical, parallel cuts. This produces consecutive leaves of veneer with the standard appearance of veneer (the "cathedral" or flame-shaped arch). When a log is flat cut it will generate flat cut bundles. As you get to the center of the log, normally the rest of the flitch is split open to produce a quartered look called flat cut quarters.

Half Round Slicing - (modified characteristics of both rotary and flat cut veneers) A half of a log is mounted so that it will cause the blade to cut slightly across the growth rings. This is primarily used to accentuate the grain in various woods such as in burls or Bird's Eye Maple, or to gain a wider width on a cathedral on small dimension logs.

Quarter Cut - (straight grain or ribbon-striped appearance) A quarter of the log is mounted off center so that the growth rings strike the knife at a right angle. The edge of the annual rings create the lineal figure of the veneer. Quartered leaves cut consecutively are narrower than plain sliced and typically contain straighter grain. Some flake is produced when cutting through the medullary rays, especially in Oak.

Rift Cut - (a straight grain effect similar to true quarter cut veneer) Used in Oak to minimize the "flake" effect, the cant is cut at an angle of 15 degrees off the quartered position.

Rotary Cut - (creates a bold sometimes wild, variated grain) An entire log is mounted so that the log turns on its long axis. While spinning, the knife advances toward the center of the log slicing or peeling a continuous sheet of veneer. Sometimes a score line is cut into the log to give the effect of consecutive sheets. This is especially true of burls and Bird's Eye Maple.

Veneer Matches

Balance Match - The width of each veneer leaf in a panel is the same, but there can be any number of leaves.

Book Match - Every other leaf is turned over like the pages in a book. This is the most popular matching method and creates a symmetrical pattern and a series of pairs.

Butt or End Match - The veneer is joined end to end and side to side. This is sometimes used when the veneer is not long enough to cover the desired panel height. It is also a popular method for burls, crotches, and highly decorative veneers.

Book and Butt Match - The veneer is joined from side to side and end to end.


Center Match - Each face has an even number of veneer sheets, but the widths are not necessarily the same. The center joint will be in the middle of the panel.

Diamond Match/Box Match - Four equal pieces of veneer are cut diagonally to the usually straight grain. These are matched to create a diamond pattern. In a reverse diamond match, the pieces are matched so that the grain direction runs toward the middle.


Pie Match/Sunburst Match - Consecutive sheets are trimmed into pie shaped pieces and matched in a circular fashion in which the points meet in the center. Mostly used on round, oval or octagonal shaped panels.


Random Match - Deliberate mismatched leaves are placed next to each other to give a rustic, natural look. This works especially well with knotty or wormy species.

Slip Match - Consecutive sheets are slipped out in sequence to expose the same side of veneer and a repeating grain figure. The result is a series of grain repeats, but no pairs.

Other Veneer Terms

Backed Veneer

Veneer which has been backed with special paper laminate veneer or other material.

Butt End

Part of the veneer corresponding to the stump-wood from which it was obtained.



Splits in the longitudinal separation of the fibers in the veneer or that may occur at the joining of the veneer leaves.


A machine that uses a swinging knife for trimming and clipping.



The process for trimming veneer to make it suitable for jointing or to cut out undesirable patterns or defects.



Vat or pressure infused process to produce colored veneers.


Edge Banding

Strips of veneer joined continuously head-on to be applied onto the sides of the substrate.

Finger Jointing

Joining together two veneers by means of a series of interlocking "fingers" at the edge ends and held together with an adhesive.

Flattened Veneer

Veneer which has undergone flattening operations.



A small patch of accumulated gum (mineral or resin) that commonly occurs in American Cherry and Beech. It is often the result of crown damage, bird pecks, or other insect damage.


Hand Sample

Approximately 8"x11", a hand sample may be from a specific log or may be a general type sample representing a species as a whole.


The inner core of a mature log, usually darker in color that the sapwood.


Holes in the veneer due to the loss of loose knots or caused by defects in the log.


Thin strips of veneers used for decorative purposes. Usually sold in one meter lengths, the various types commercially available today are; Stringings, Flat lines, Square lines, Purfling and Bandings.


A place in the wood where a branch had grown out of the heartwood.

Live Sample

Single sheets of veneer pulled out of a log to represent the whole log. (Our live samples are sent for selection, and those not chosen must be returned or a resampling charge will be accessed.)


Joining veneers of different colors and species to obtain a specific pattern.


Joining veneers in a sequence according to their natural sequential order or to obtain specific dimensions and a pattern desired.


Assigned for inventory and sampling purposes. Log number: each log is assigned a separate number. Flitch number: half a log is given a separate number. Section number: sometimes different sections are numbered by adding a dash and another number to the log or flitch number to show it came from the same tree. Bundle number: number given to a specific number of sheets that are tied together.


Pallet - A flat wooden frame used to handle and store or ship bundles of veneer.


A single cluster of very small knots.


A minute opening that is a moisture conducting cell.

Pre-Dyed Veneer

Veneer that has been dyed throughout with any color before it is applied to a substrate.


Natural vegetable substance found in the wood of many trees, especially conifers. Similar to pitch pocket.


A juice or circulating fluid found in trees.


The soft wood beneath the inner bark through which the sap flows. Often lighter in color than the central heartwood.

Solid Wood

Wood thicker than three millimeters (approximately an eighth of an inch).


Cracks or tears in the veneer.

Stained Veneer

A veneer which has been stained by an external factor such as mold, light, grease etc., or end stain which is the stain that often occurs at the end of a log.

Steamed Veneer

Veneer obtained from logs that have been pre-treated by steaming.

Stump-Wood Veneer

Veneer obtained from the butt log or "stump" of a tree. Marked with irregular veining.

Trimmed Veneer

Veneer which has undergone trimming.


Veneer is trimmed lengthwise to remove defects and to make the veneer sides parallel and suitable for joining.

Visible Surface Veneer

The veneer that is to be applied to the visible side of the substrate.


The part of the veneer that is removed during trimming.


The calculation of raw veneer footage, necessary to make net footage on panels.

Gunderlin © 2008