Let’s Hear It for Wood Defects, Nature’s Beauty

wood defectsWood displays endlessly varied markings and characteristics that make each piece even more naturally attractive and appealing. Like the old adage about snowflakes, no two logs are exactly alike.

This means that whatever you choose to enhance with the matchless beauty of high quality wood veneer, from architectural interiors to virtuosic violins, you can be sure that the natural wood material you are using is one of a kind.

Wood Defects Spell Character Galore

First we need to distinguish between naturally occurring defects and manufacturing defects. Manufacturing defects like thick thin sheets, big splits, deep knife marks, large holes, mold or some blue stain may have happened in the slicing and manufacturing process. These are the not desirable defects! Naturally occurring defects or beauty marks are the desirable qualities and here are some of the conditions and effects responsible for the amazing designs and patterns you can expect to see in many examples of wood veneer.

  • wood defectsDiscolorations and Stains

Common discolorations include sap stains and those arising from mineral uptake into the tree. These mineral colorations can add a wonderful contrast effect. Pollard oak and rustic chestnuts are two such examples.

  • Pecky

wood defectsThis happens when pockets of wood have been disintegrated due to decay. This type of defect could also involve parts of the wood experiencing abrupt changes in color because of localized injury (like a bird peck; hence the name “pecky”). Defects such as these are considered especially decorative in cypress or hickory wood. In Karelian birch burl, sap-eating insects attack the trees every year, resulting in the distinctive gorgeous black and brown teardrop markings.

  • wood defectsWorm Holes

These visible holes are caused by the activity of various beetle larvae during the life of the tree. Great examples are Wormy chestnut or wormy spalted maple. Light or dark colored glue can either minimize or enhance the contrast of the wormholes.

  • Worm Tracks

These intriguing discolorations can run with or across the grain, and are seen as straight or wavy streaks.

  • Black or Open Knots in Burls

Leave in your black knots to create a special rustic feel. Or if you choose a more homogenous look or you want to fix a larger (up to quarter size) hole, these can be punched out with a round or amoeba shaped punching tool and then the void is replaced with the same shape from a similarly structured and colored piece from an unused part of the veneer. Well-matched and executed “plugs” are very difficult to spot by the untrained eye.

  • Sap and Heartwood

wood defectswood defectsTraditionally most sapwood was cut off the veneer, but now more than ever Architects and Designers are specifying using both sap and heart wood to create an exciting light/dark contrast. This also increases the yield and shows off the woods natural characteristics.


To bring the unadulterated beauty and intrigue of nature to your surroundings and handcrafted creations, purchase top quality wood veneer from a reputable company. You might find that knowing more about the origins behind the patterns can turn curiosity into a real conversation piece!


Sabrina Parisette-HerzogSabrina Parisette-Herzog is a 5th generation wood veneer specialist. Owner and President of Herzog Veneers, Inc., and a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, she and her husband Sam started the company in High Point, NC in 1982.
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