Illustrated guide of veneer cutting methods

Photo By States Industries


The key attributes that determine the appearance and cost of veneers for decorative wood panels include the wood species, veneer cut, veneer match and grade.

Wood species is the primary determinant of the color and grain structure of the veneers. Generally, wood species are divided into hardwoods (deciduous or leaf-bearing) and softwoods (coniferous or cone-bearing). In addition, wood species are often classified as open grain or closed grain, which refers to the texture of the wood’s cell structure. Popular hardwoods include: maple, birch, oak and cherry. Popular softwoods for veneers include cedar, pine, redwood and fir.

The following describes the different veneer cutting methods.

Veneer cutting methods
The four common cuts for veneer are rotary, plain sliced, quarter sliced and rift cut.

In rotary cut, the veneers are peeled from a log like paper coming off a roll. This method produces large pieces of veneer with flat, random grain patterns. This is generally the least expensive cutting method, but rotary veneers can have a bland appearance and may vary widely in pattern or color. Rotary cut veneers are ideal for projects where a low price point is more important than a consistent appearance.

Plain sliced veneers are cut along a log’s growth rings and typically present a cathedral grain pattern with veneer leaves that are 6 to 12 inches wide. Plain slicing is the most common, as it produces the highest yield and is generally the least expensive slicing method. This method is ideal for wall panels, doors and furniture.

For quarter sliced, the veneers are cut perpendicular to a log’s growth rings and generally produce a very straight grain. The veneer leaves are cut consecutively and are easy to match. In many species, this method will reveal a decorative element in the wood, like flake patterns in white oak. Quarter slicing produces smaller veneer leaves and is generally more expensive. Applications for quartersawn veneers include cabinetry, flooring and high-end custom furniture.

Rift cut veneers are sliced at an angle of 15 degrees to the radius of the log. This method is most often used for oak, and is intended to produce a straight grain and minimize the oak’s ray flake effect. Although rift slicing is the most expensive because it results in the most waste, it is also easily sequenced and matched. Rift cut veneers are often used for fine furniture and projects that require a consistent, long, straight grain.

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