There are some expressions and jargon used in the veneer trade which may not be
immediately familiar. While not attempting to be completely exhaustive, the following
list may prove to be of some help when discussing some of the idiosyncrasies peculiar
to our product.
- Annual Ring
Also known as the growth ring, this is the mark, or ring of wood, showing the layer
of wood produced in a year and can be seen in a transverse section of the log. On
a flat section the annual rings show as straight(ish) lines and/or the pattern of
hoops or "cathedrals" making up the crown.
- Architectural grade
High quality veneer logs , usually over 2.55 metres long, that are graded as being
suitable for top architect designed interiors.
Cheap, generally low grade veneer that is used on the back of veneered panels as
- Bark pockets or ingrowing bark
Small patches of bark embedded in the wood, often found in burrs such as Ash, Oak
and Maple. Ingrowing bark is not desirable in the best logs but it is hard to find
some burr types completely clear of this feature.
- Bird's eye
Most usually seen on certain Maple logs, as the name suggests, this figure looks
like many small round eyes on the surface of the veneer, sometimes appearing almost
three-dimensional. Very occasionally encountered in a few other species.
- Book matching
Also known as mirror matching, this is when two consecutive veneers are mirrored
by turning one over as when turning the page of a book. This process can be repeated
across an area to give a pleasing and even look to the panel being covered.
- Burr or burl
An abnormal bulge that grows on the side or base of the tree consisting of hundreds,
if not thousands of dormant buds. The veneers produced from burrs are highly prized,
usually featuring tight whirls, swirls and pips with wild or curly grain mixed in
for good measure. A full burr is so called when the entire surface is covered evenly
The bottom part of the tree around the area just above where it meets the ground
is known as the butt. Here the grain can become very wild and irregular, particularly
in those species where this area may expand in size and become almost bell-shaped
and fluted. Few butts are converted into veneers these days although around the
1920's and 30's Walnut butts were very popular on bedroom and dining room furniture,
often being quarter matched for extra decorative effect.
- Cathedral crown
Generally regarded as the most elegant feature of a flat cut veneer, this structure
takes its name from the shape at the top of cathedral windows. It is like a series
of loops that appear to run up one side of the face of the veneer, then turn and
run down the other side. Sometimes known as a "rising crown ".
Pips or tiny clusters of burrs interspersed over the veneer leaf in small patches,
somewhat resembling the marks left by cats' paws.
Where a log is only partially burred the veneer produced is known as cluster. The
whirls and pips occur in patches or clusters, with areas of plainer wood in between.
- Crown cut
Another name for flat cut or flat sliced veneer, displaying the crown (or heart)
of the wood.
- Curl or crotch
Also known as "flame ". This is from the section of the tree where the main trunk
forks into two. The particular part of the log is sliced across this intersection
to produce beautiful veneers showing the growth of the wood dividing in two directions,
sometimes with attractive feathering. Most commonly seen on Mahogany but a few other
species are cut into curls on occasion.
- Curly grain
This results from the wood fibres deviating from the vertical, repeatedly moving
left and right over a short distance, giving an almost corrugated appearance to
the figure - each direction of growth reflecting the light differently.
Any abnormality or irregularity in the veneer that adversely affects its working
quality or appearance. An open defect refers to a hole or open split.
- Door length
Logs of veneer yielding material that is between 2.05 and 2.40 metres long are ideal
for standard doors and are therefore said to be door length.
This type of figuring, named after its traditional use on violin backs, is not dissimilar
to curly. A true fiddleback figure is, however, more consistent with the ripples
running from edge to edge in a practically uninterrupted fashion. Usually from quarter
cut logs and mainly seen in Sycamore, less commonly in Anegre, Maple, Makore and
one or two others. Sometimes also known as ripple figure.
Broadly speaking, this refers to any distinctive marking showing on the surface
of veneer that is not apparent in plain or unfigured wood. Figure in wood is due
to natural structural features, but is often enhanced by the log being sliced in
a particular way - for instance rotary cutting Bird's Eye Maple usually brings out
the "eyes" in a way that flat slicing would not. Quarter cutting figured Sycamore
produces a stronger fiddleback figure than flat slicing across the full width of
Strictly speaking the grain of the wood is the actual arrangement and alignment
of the wood fibres relative to the long axis of the log. Mostly this will be fairly
straight but will occasionally be irregular. It may be wavy, curly, interlocked
or even spiralled, resulting in various forms of figure showing on the flat surface
of the veneer.
- Gum pocket
In some species the wood fibres may separate in places over a very short distance
and this small opening will sometimes collect a resin deposit. This shows on the
veneer as a narrow brown or black mark usually extending over just a few millimetres.
American Cherry, Oregon Pine and Zebrano are among those that can be affected in
- Halves and Half-crown
At the centre of the tree the wood is normally faulty and this is trimmed away at
the veneer mill to produce narrow bundles known as "halves" (see Veneer/Production).
They are usually straight grained but may sometimes show part of the crown feature
on one side. The latter are known as half-crown bundles and when bookmatched these
veneers look very similar to those with a full crown.
Wood produced from broad leaved trees such as Oak, Beech, Walnut, etc.
The inner portion of the log consisting of older mature wood from which most veneers
are produced. With many species it is distinguishable from the younger sapwood by
its darker colour. In some light coloured veneers such as Ash, Beech or Maple, there
is little or no visible difference between sapwood and heartwood. However, in some
older, larger trees the more mature, central heartwood may be a somewhat discoloured
brown or grey in part, and this area will usually be trimmed away.
- Knife mark
A mark or scar across the veneer caused by a damaged blade on the veneer slicing
machine. This damage may be caused by a knot or a foreign body (a stone or piece
of metal for instance) being embedded inside the log. A slight knife mark will not
be a problem and will disappear when the surface is sanded. If the scar is deep
then it will not be possible to use this part of the veneer.
When veneers have been trimmed to the required width and jointed together either
by glue stitching or with the use of veneer tape, the resulting sheets are known
as lay-ons and are ready for pressing directly on to doors, panels, tops etc.
- Mineral Stain
Greyish black or olive streaks or larger discoloured areas in the wood resulting
from abnormal concentrations of mineral matter taken up from the soil in which the
Another type of figure which may be randomly spread (broken mottle) or more regular
(block figure or block mottle). The size of figure is variable but when very small
and delicate is sometimes referred to as bee's wing which it resembles.
- Oyster Heart
In some flat sliced veneers the heart or crown might be displayed in the form of
a distinct oval shape rather than the more usual series of loops. Although this
feature is not apparent in the majority of examples it is sometimes specified to
achieve a certain look to the finished piece.
- Oyster veneer
Oysters, so called because of their resemblance to an oyster shell, are produced
from selected limbs (branches) of certain species by saw-cutting across, usually
at an approximate 45° angle. The resulting small, oval pieces are trimmed and
laid in various patterns on special furniture and frames. The most common species
for oyster work are Laburnum, Olive, Walnut and Yew.
- Panel length
If a log of veneer is between 2.55 and 3.20 metres long it is generally said to
be panel length. This is a good range of lengths for the panel manufacturers to
produce 8 ft. and 10 ft. long veneered boards. Anything too much longer will be
wasteful and better suited to work incorporating a range of different lengths.
A quantity of similar logs gathered together either before or after conversion into
veneer is often referred to as a parcel of logs.
Veneer that displays a number of tiny pips or small sound knots is known as pippy.
This feature is often desirable in some species such as Yew (where it is also known
as "pepper"), and may be useful in character Oak if a rustic, country look is required.
However in some veneers, such as Sycamore, it is usually deemed to be less attractive.
From the French word meaning apple, this figuring at its most even is rather like
a close pattern of small circles or ovals, sometimes overlapping each other. It
can appear almost quilted and even, in some examples, resemble the velvety "astrakhan"
that was seen on fashionable coat collars some years ago. Veneers displaying pommele
figure are rotary-cut.
- Quarter matching
Decorative burrs and some other figured veneers are often "quartered" or quarter
matched. Four identical leaves will be turned in both the length and the width so
that they mirror each other in both directions. On large panels, doors or tabletops
this may be repeated several times so that the whole area is evenly matched. The
visual effects can be quite stunning.
Also known as blister, this figure is sometimes to be found in certain Maples. At
its best it is very beautiful, exhibiting apparent bulges that almost appear to
billow out of the surface of the veneer in a three-dimensional way. Some Pommele
Sapele veneers can also look almost quilted.
- Random Matching
Also known as mis-matching. A somewhat misleading term in that the veneers are not
matched at all. Leaves from different bundles and even from different logs are randomly
laid together so that the resulting surface looks less formal, as though it might
be from solid timber.
- Ray or Medullary Ray
Rays are ribbon like strands of tissue extending radially across the grain which
are exposed as speckles or flecks of varying size on some quarter cut veneers. These
give rise to the so-called silver grain or raindrop figure commonly seen on quartered
Oak as well as the speckling on Beech and Lacewood. When this feature is particularly
prominent or coarse in appearance it is sometimes referred to as flake or shell.
The younger area of wood around the outside of the log just beneath the bark that
is distinguishable from the heartwood by its lighter colour. On most veneers it
is trimmed off at the veneer mill. However, with some species it is an attractive
contrast to the darker heartwood and can be imaginatively incorporated into the
A split or opening in the grain caused by the cells or fibres rupturing and pulling
apart. Heart shakes are, as the term implies, splits roughly in the middle of the
veneer (not very desirable!) and end shakes are, obviously, at one or both ends.
- Slip matching
Instead of turning successive veneers over as in book matching, here the consecutive
veneers are slid or slipped across one another so as not to create a mirror match.
This gives a different visual effect and can look less formal. It can also eradicate
the shading from one veneer to another that sometimes occurs with book matching.
Wood from coniferous trees such as Pine, Larch, Fir etc.. Veneer from these is known
as softwood veneer.
Fine random streaks, usually short in length, which can be distributed over all
or part of the surface of a veneer, particularly in Maple and Pear (where they are
not considered desirable) and Alder (where they are!).
- Thunder shake
This takes the form of an irregular hair-line crack in the veneer that may very
occasionally be seen, mainly in a few African species. It runs across the grain,
usually for a short distance in a slightly zigzag manner and is thought to arise
as a result of wind action bending the growing trunk of the tree. This part of the
veneer would be cut away and disposed of rather than used.
This term usually applies to Sycamore or Maple veneers where the logs have first
been steamed or cooked. When uncooked these species produce more or less white veneer.
However, after cooking the colour changes to anything from pale yellowy gold to
light brown and even pink. The depth of colour depends on the cooking time and temperature.
Strangely, when Beech logs are cooked prior to slicing, the resulting veneer is
simply referred to as "Steamed Beech"