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Quick Links: Veneer Matching - Panel Construction - Handling, Installation and Finishing - General Grades of Veneer Sheets - Glossary - Manufacturer Links

Veneer Matching
The term matching has several meanings. It may refer to the matching of veneer strips within an individual panel, as well as a continuing match of the veneer from panel to panel to achieve an overall effect.


    Every other sheet of a flitch* is turned over, just like the leaves of a book.

    Flitches of veneer are assembled with no definite pattern of grain characteristics.


    Every sheet of a flitch is joined side-by-side without turning the flitch figure. This patterns is usually specified when even color is desired and is normally employed on straighter grained veneers.


    The panel face is made from a single piece of veneer, exposing a continuous grain characteristic across the entire panel.

In addition to grain matching within a panel, there are several methods of arranging the panels themselves within a room.

Panels, doors and transoms are matched around the room, across doors, and under windows. Panels are numbered and installed according to a blueprint.

Panels of the same size are matched and numbered in sequence.

*Flitch - A log or part of a log, trimmed and prepared for conversion into veneers.

Panel Construction
Based almost entirely on a 48" x 96" panel. Occasionally 120" material is available. This is a standard veneer crossbanding technique wherein 3,5,7 or 9 veneer plies are used to produce the final panel.

This has an MDF crossband under the face and back veneers with veneer innerplies. This allows for reduction of finish inconsistencies caused by open voids under the face and back.

This is a five ply construction made up of two face veneers, two crossband veneers and a solid lumber core. The core is usually made up of edge-glued strips of lumber 1-1/2" to 2" wide. The core is basically solid and free of voids which gives unusual strength and high resistance to buckling, twisting or warping. Panel thickness is normally 3/4".

This is a carefully engineered product. Thickness tolerances are maintained to a maximum deviation of + or - .005". Particleboard is available in thicknesses from 1/4" to 1-1/2" and in various widths. Fire-retardant particleboard is also available in a wide variety of sizes and thicknesses.

Similar to particleboard with the additional advantage of uniform density throughout panel. Available in thicknesses from 1/4" to 1-1/8" and in various widths. Edges can be machined and easily finished. Fiberboard is the most stable of composition core material.

Handling, Installation and Finishing

In order to obtain a clean edge and to avoid chip outs, it is important to use the correct saw blade for cutting plywoods.

Deal with a reputable saw maker who has the skills to manufacture a precision instrument. Saw selection should be based on the saw supplier's recommendation of saw diameter, number, shape and arrangement of teeth, machine speed and feed rate.


  • Be sure that panels have been acclimated to their surroundings before attempting to install.

General Grades of Veneer Sheets

Veneer can be sliced or cut from different sections of the log: from the heartwood or innermost portion, from the sapwood or outer layer, or from a combination of both heartwood and sapwood.  When these veneers are composed into full sheets, the manner in which they are matched, the part of the log from which they come and their relative appearance determine the general classifications.

A select veneer is composed entirely of heartwood or sapwood and is matched for both grain pattern and color.

A uniform veneer is also composed entirely of heartwood or sapwood but is matched for color only.

A natural veneer is composed of both heartwood and sapwood.  Select or uniform heartwood veneers are usually more expensive than all their sapwood counterparts since heartwood forms the smallest portion of the tree.  Because natural veneers are a combination of both heartwood and sapwood, they are generally the least expensive of the three.

A paint grade veneer is one which has a smooth enough finish so none of the grain pattern or natural characteristics of the wood show through when it's painted.  This is generally a lower grade panel.

A stain grade veneer is just the opposite of a paint grade.  It is meant to take a clear or tinted stain so the grain pattern and natural characteristics of the wood can show through.

Grading of wood varies according to wood species, but this will serve as a general guide:

Face Grades:


  • Very small pin knots (3/32")
  • Scattered small burls
  • Slight mineral streaks
  • Tiny, short, hairline splits possible
  • Book matched if sliced
  • 1 Piece rotary cut, premium grade


  • Small, sound, pin knots (1/4")
  • Scattered small burls
  • Blending mineral streaks
  • Small, rough grain areas possible
  • Small, short, hairline splits possible
  • Book matched, slip or color matched
  • A perfect panel for cabinet making
  • Recommended for when the panel will be cut


  • Small, sound knots (may be repaired)(1/2")
  • Scattered small burls
  • Mineral streaks
  • Rough grain areas possible
  • Repaired splits possible
  • Not book matched, but no sharp contrast


  • Sound, knots (may be repaired)(1")
  • Scattered small burls
  • Mineral streaks
  • Rough grain areas possible
  • Repaired splits possible
  • Generally whole piece, but no sharp contrast.  Color variations and streaks.

Back Grades:


  • Free from open defects
  • No color or grain match
  • Smooth patches, sound knots, discoloration and varying color.


  • All defects repaired
  • Sound tight knots
  • Rough grain allowed


  • More knots allowed
  • Streak, marks, veneer laps, unlimited small defects
  • Any matching

Backs: The reverse side to the face of a plywood panel.Generally, the poorer side of any grade plywood panel calling for a face and a back.

Bark Pocket: A small area of bark around which normal wood has grown.

Burl: A swirl or twist in the grain of wood, usually occurring near a knot, but which itself does not contain a knot.

Core: The innermost portion of plywood usually composed of veneer. Also referred to as a "center." A core may also be made of fiberboard, particleboard or lumber.

Crossbar: An imperfection or irregularity in the grain of wood running at right angles to the length of the board.

Crossbanding: Inner ply veneer placed at right angles to the core, face and back of a plywood panel.

Defects: Anything interrupting the smooth flow of a wood surface.   This includes loose knots, splits, voids, wormholes, bark pockets and others.

Delamination: The separation of the inner plys in a panel due to the failure of the adhesive bond.

Face: The best side of a plywood panel in which the outer veneers are of different grades.

Grain: The pattern, size and direction of the fibers in wood or veneer.

Gum Spots: Accumulation of resinous material often found on panel surfaces.  May be removed by sanding.

Half-Round Slicing: Off-center slicing cut slightly across the annular grown rings resulting in half-round, plain sliced or rotary characteristics.

Hardwood: General term referring to the wood of many different deciduous trees as opposed to the softwood of evergreen or coniferous trees.  Does not relate to the density of the wood.

Knot: Circular portion of a board or veneer that was once the base of a branch or twig growing from the trunk of a tree.

Knot (Open): Opening produced when a portion of a know has dropped out or separated due to seasoning.

Knot (Pin): Sound knots less than 1/4" in diameter.

Knot (Sound): Knots that are solidly fixed by growth and retain their place in lumber or veneer.

Knothole: Opening produced when knots drop from the wood in which they were once embedded.

Lap: The overlapping of one piece of veneer on another in the same layer of ply.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF): A panel or core material manufactured from pressure cooked wood fiber, resin and wax.

Mineral Streak: A discoloration of hardwood and hardwood veneer.

Particleboard: A panel or core material manufactured from pressed sawmill shavings, resin and wax.

Patches: Filler material inserted into defects of veneers or panels for repair.

Plain Sliced: Veneer sliced from a log tangent to the tree's annual rings.

Ply: A single sheet of veneer forming one layer in a multi-layered piece of plywood.

Plywood, Hardwood: A panel composed of layers of inner plys, or other core material joined with an adhesive to a face veneer of hardwood and a back veneer, usually also composed of hardwood.

Quarter Slicing: Quartered log sliced at right angles to the growth rings.

Rift Cut: Veneer cut from a quartered log on a 90 degree angle to the grain.

Rotary Cut: Veneer peeled from a whole log set in a lathe and turned against a special knife

Sapwood: The light colored, living portion of a tree located between the heartwood and the bark.

Slip Matched: Veneer sheets that are laid side by side to form a whole sheet with a repetitive grain appearance.

Splits: Separations of the wood fiber running parallel to the grain. 

Veneer: Peeled or sliced thin sheets of wood used as inner plys or as decorative faces.

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