No Matter How You Slice It: An Intro to Wood Veneer Cutting Methods

The specie, the size of the log, and the desired grain pattern are all considered when determining what kind of cut will be created to make a particular wood veneer. Here’s a great primer on how it’s done.

Various Cutting Methods for Wood Veneers

 1. Rotary Cut – This cut is produced by placing a rotating log against a stationary knife. Because the peeled cut follows the log’s annual growth rings, a bold, variegated grain pattern is created. Among all types of cutting methods, this creates the highest yield and is the most cost effective. This cut achieves great results with oak, maple, and birch. Burls of all types, highly figured species like Bubinga/Kevazingo and Birds Eye Maple are usually rotary cut.

wood veneers2. Plain Sliced – (Also known as Cathedral, Flat or Crown cut). Among wood veneer cuts, this is perhaps the most basic and commonly used. It is produced by mounting and advancing a half log against a stationary knife with an up and down motion. The outcome is a cathedral and straight grain pattern. This particular cut offers the highest yield among the sliced methods and is available for almost all types of wood.

wood veneers3.Quarter Sliced – This cutting technique uses the same slicing motion as a plain sliced veneer. The only difference is that the log is first cut into quarters before slicing. This method intersects the annual growth rings and produces a ribbon-striped or straight grain appearance. Mostly species with a distinctive annual ring pattern are quarter cut, like zebrawood, mahogany, oak, anegre and walnut.  Because of the log’s low yield, this is one of the most expensive cuts to produce. The log also has to be of a large dimension to be used for this style of cut.

wood veneers4. Rift Cut –Rift cut is similar to quarter cut. The quarter cant is cut at a 15 degree angle off the quartered position. This cutting method enhances the comb grain or rift effect and minimizes the flake or medullar rays often seen in Oak.  Among cut wood veneers, this is also a pricier one, because of the log’s lower yield.

5. Half Round Sliced – (Also known as Stay log slicing). A variant to rotary cutting, wherein log sections are placed off center with the heart side towards  the lathe and with the sap side to the knife. This produces a wider cathedral arch as the cut line sweeps across the annual rings. It’s a favorite cutting method for using smaller dimension logs.

6. Back Cutting Half Round– (Also known as Back cutting Stay log). The cant is mounted with the sap side on the lathe, and thereby starting the cutting on the heart side of the cant. This cut is favored for odd shaped butts, stumps and crotches.

wood veneers7. Lengthwise Sliced – Manufactured by horizontally slicing thick boards rather than flitches. Produces great yield as the whole board is sliced. Great use in cutting very smooth thicker cut veneers or repurposing expensive lumber like ebony and slicing it into veneer.

Cutting wood veneer… let me count the ways! Who knew there was so much choice? With a better understanding of what’s available, you can more easily select the type of veneer most suitable for your needs. Make sure the quality wood veneer you purchase is… a cut above!

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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