Veneer Basics

Unique Appearance / Characteristics

The pattern seen on the surface of a veneer is known as the ‘figure’. It results from two main factors:

  • Interaction of several natural features e.g. the frequency of growth rings, the colour tone variations between earlywood and latewood, deviations from natural grain, (wavy, curly or interlocked grain), medullaryrays, markings and pigments in the wood structure, burls or curls.
  • The way the flitch is cut to achieve the desired figure.

Birdseye

Birdseye figure can be seeon back-cut surfaces of certain species (commonly Maple) as numerous roundedareas resembling small eyes – it is caused by small conical depressions of the growth rings accompanied by considerable fibre distortions.

Butt

Where the roots form into the solid stump there can be considerable distortion into wavy ripple marks – there is always the distorted grain figure, along with greater or lesser amounts of the wavy cross figure.

Curly

Found mostly in North American Maple or Birch, curly figure occurs when the fibres are distorted producing a small but strong irregular undulations in the veneer.

Burl/Burr

Large abnormal wart like growths on trees produce some of the most prized veneers. Burl veneers display an attractive pattern of tightly packed bud formations that appear as rings and dots and result in an attractive and unusual figure whichever way it is cut. Leaf sizes are generally small and burl veneer is difficult to work.

Swirl

A figure caused by irregular grain in the region of a knot – the grain tends to swirl around in a random pattern.

Fiddleback

This figure is some-what similar to curly except the strong but fine undulations are regular. When quarter cut the wavy patterns appear as lustrous bars across the veneer leaf. The wood gets its name from its historical use for violin backs.

Mottle

A variegated pattern which consists principally of irregular, wavy fibres extending for short distances across the face, with some irregular cross figure in twisted interwoven grain resulting in a broken, stripe figure.

Stripe

Produced by quarter slicing timber that has interlocked grain i.e. the angle of the fibres periodically changes or reverses in successive layers, resulting in a straight, uniform, stripy effect – common in almost all timber with a wide variety of character.

Quilted

Resembles a larger, more exaggerated version of pommele figure – the cellular figure is elongated and closely crowded giving it a shimmering pillowy 3D effect. Commonly found in Maple, Mahogany, Moabi and Sapele.

Block Mottle

An irregular variegation in the wood structure having broad cross markings, broken by variations in strip which shows as blocky patches across the grain of the veneer. Commonly found in Makore and Anegre.

Pommele

Resembles a puddle surface during a light rain, a dense pattern of small rings enveloping one another, perhaps even a ‘suede’ or ‘furry’ look – usually found in extremely large trees of African species like Sapele, Bubinga and Makore. Some domestic species with a sparser, larger figure are referred to as ‘blistered’.

Flame/Curl/Crotch

Revealed when a trunk or heavy branch with two forking branches is cut through its collective centre, this highly prized veneer cut is from just below the fork of a tree.

Cluster

Cluster figure are veneers that are mostly figured but with clusters or patches of burl.