An Overview of Wood Veneers

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In our last blog post, we discussed why wall paneling is an important part of the AWI Standards. We’re going to carry on from there and take a look more specifically at a type of wall paneling – wood veneers.

Wood Veneer Specifications

Many architectural woodworking projects that require wood veneer are purely functional and therefore don’t need complex specifications. However, if a project requires decorative elements, it can get very complex very quickly – even if the final appearance is simple and elegant.

Detailed wood veneer specifications should not be neglected, otherwise panels may not match, and the resulting fixes can be time-consuming and costly.

Species of Wood Veneer

Hardwood and softwood veneers are produced in a range of industry-standard specifications from a variety of species.

  • Hardwood veneer can be domestic or imported. Species include oak, ash, beech, maple, sycamore, and cherry
  • The most commonly used tree species for softwood veneer is the Douglas fir, although pines are also used. The supply of other softwoods is limited

Wood Veneer Cutting

The appearance of veneer is determined by how a log segment is cut according to its annual rings. The slices of veneer (called leaves) are kept in the order in which they are cut. That means that they are in order when they are arranged into the veneer.

There are four main types of cutting in the AWI Standards for wood veneer specifications:

  1. Plain or Flat Cutting: This is the most commonly used cutting method in architectural woodwork, where the cut is made parallel to a line through the middle of the log
  2. Quarter Cutting: A quarter cut is made parallel to a radius line through the log, producing a series of stripes
  3. Rift Cutting: A rift cut is made slightly off the radius line associated with quarter cutting and is only used in Red and White Oak
  4. Rotary Cutting: The log is essentially peeled along the log’s growth rings in a rotary cut, resulting in a striking, random appearance.

Wood Veneer Matching Methods

Once the cuts have been made (whatever type of cut you are using), the resulting leaves are matched as desired. Different types of veneer matching can be used according to the result you want. While each leaf is different, it is related to its adjacent leaves. Different ways of matching adjacent leaves is what gives veneers their subtle variations.

There are various types of matching methods in the wood veneer AWI Standards specifications, including:

  • Book matching: This is a traditional matching method whereby alternate leaves are reversed, resulting in a mirror effect
  • Book and turn matching: As with book matching, alternate leaves are reversed but also turned so the grain runs in the opposite direction
  • Random matching: Leaves from of the same species but not the same log are used together, resulting in random graining
  • Mismatching: Leaves from the same log are placed out of order, resulting in a mismatched pattern with a regular grain and color
  • Slip matching: A section of leaves from the same log used, producing a repeating, gradually changing pattern

As the finish to a woodworking project, wood veneers give an immediate impression of the high quality of a QCP-certified woodworker’s work. In turn, this quality standard helps you generate repeat business and greater demand for your services.

You will find a lot of handy information and guidance about wood veneer specifications in the AWI-300 sections on Materials. This section covers wood panels and wood veneers in detail, as well as compliance requirements.

Contact us to find out more about how the Architectural Woodwork Institute’s Quality Certification Program can build your reputation for high-quality woodwork.