Understanding Wood Veneer - Part I

Face veneer captures the design vision of the project and represents the architect’s signature on their project masterpiece. The final look of your project is strongly dependent on your veneer choice, and the terminology can be confusing when specifying veneer.

What are the differences between veneer cuts? What effect do these cuts have on the final look of the veneer?

This post is the first in a series of posts to help you understand veneer and ensure you make the best choice to match your design vision.

Let’s begin with exploring the world of veneer cuts. The method, in which a log is cut in relation to the annual growth rings, determines the appearance of the veneer. The beauty of veneer is in the natural variations of texture, grain, figure, color, and the assembly on the door or panel face.

Rotary Cut

· The log is mounted horizontally in the lathe and is spun at a high RPM as it is pressed against a stationary, razor-edge knife.

· Follows the log’s annual growth rings


Result: A distinctive multi-colored appearance producing wide leaves or even one-piece faces.

Plain-Sliced (Flat Cut)

· The half log is mounted with the heart side flat against the guide plate of the slicer. The log is then sliced parallel to a line through the center of the log.

· Pieces of veneer are kept in the order in which they are sliced resulting in a natural grain progression when assembled into veneer faces.


Result: Cathedral and straight grain patterns.


· The quarter log is mounted on the guide plate so the growth rings of the log strike the knife at or near right angles, producing a series of stripes.

· Quarter-slicing produces “flake” when slicing through the line of the medullary ray. Flake varies in size and frequency from log to log and it is not considered a defect.

· The size of flake will only be controlled if the specification calls for it.


Result: Straight grain and flakes.


· This cut, only available in red and white oaks. It is obtained by cutting at an angle about 15° off of the quartered position to avoid the flake figure of medullary cells.

· It is only slightly more expensive than quartered.


Result: Straight grain without flakes.

Last updated on May 25, 2018

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