What is wood veneer on doors?

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  Veneers on doors are used to give them an attractive appearance. Wood veneers give a traditional look  

The faces of most doors consist of a face veneer fixed to either solid timber or another solid material, or onto core veneers and crossbands. The face veneers are the parts visible on each face and will affect the overall appearance of the door. For many standard doors, the face veneer is made from a natural wood veneer fitted onto pieces made of engineered wood or other similar materials. 


Veneering is an ancient technique where a very thin layer of natural wood, usually thinner than 3mm, is fitted onto a less expensive material, or a material with enhanced properties, to give the appearance of being solid natural wood. It's often used to finish the faces on engineered wood boards, utilising the properties of engineered wood while mimicking the appearance of natural wood. The veneer can then be varnished or stained. High-quality natural wood veneers on doors provide a classic, natural look while utilising other components which address environmental concerns while enjoying improved performance.

  Wooden veneers were used in ancient Egypt  
  Thin veneers of natural wood make an for an attractive door  

Natural wood veneer is produced by cutting very thin sheets from tree trunks, using on of several methods including rotary cut and flat cut. The technique used will affect the grain pattern which is visible on the surface of the sheet. The same species of tree can look very different with different cuts or matching methods. 


Some methods of cutting are more economical than others, which will affect the price of the veneer produced. Different cutting methods also affect the size of sheets which can be produced, and narrower sheets will need to be matched and joined to cover larger areas. All the veneered products supplied by Wonkee Donkee XL Joinery use A-grade wood veneers.

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Rotary cut

The rotary cut is where a log is mounted at its centre on a lathe and rotated as a thin slice of veneer is peeled or sliced from it. It can produce very large single sheets which usually have a broad grain pattern.  


Rotary cut veneer can often be used as one complete sheet. Its pattern can appear quite random, which makes it difficult to match if pieces do need to be joined. It allows most of a log to be used, with little wastage, making it a cost-effective method of producing veneer. 


Flat cut


This cut can also be called a crown or plain cut. This is probably the most common cut in woodworking. The log is cut in half and the veneer cuts are made parallel to a line through the centre. This produces a variegated pattern, as the grain gradually changes from one piece to the next. The veneer pieces are usually kept in sequence so they can be easily matched when joined to produce larger sheets.


The pattern produced is of straight grains with dome shaped cathedrals or heart figures that are often seen on natural wood sheets. The width of sheets which can be produced will depend on the size of the log used. This method of cut can be used with most wood species and should produce moderately priced veneers.


Quarter cut


The quarter cut uses a method which begins by quartering the log before it's used, rather than halving it. The veneers are cut by a blade set at right angles to the growth rings. The method wastes more wood and produces narrower sheets than rotary or flat cutting, which can make it more expensive.  


Quarter cut veneers display a striped pattern, sometimes straight, sometimes varied, depending on the species of wood. Woods that commonly use this method are mahogany, teak and oak. When oak is quarter cut it usually has a flake pattern appear amongst its grains.   


Half-round cut

The half-round cut is a cross between rotary and flat cutting. A log is halved and cut on an arc, parallel to its centre. This produces wider sheets than you would get from flat cuts, which means smaller logs can be used. The pattern produced is similar to flat cuts, but the cathedrals usually have rounder tops.

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The rift-cut will usually be the most expensive, due to the amount of wood that is wasted. It is typically used to cut various species of oak. The finished grain patterns will be straight and resemble what is produced from a quarter cut. 


The log is quartered and the cutting angle periodically changes, so as to remain about 15 degrees off the quarter. Oak's medullary ray cells extend out from the centre of the log and create the flake pattern in quarter cut oak. Cutting at an angle misses these rays and produces a comb effect grain pattern without any flakes.


Lengthwise cut


The lengthwise cut is where a flat board of sawn wood is cut into sheets. This usually produces a variegated grain pattern. The width of the sheets produced will depend on the board used to make them. 


What are the different wood veneer matching methods?

  Veneer is used to cover various structures to give them an attractive finish.  

Veneer sheets are often relatively narrow due to the way they're cut, unless they are cut with the rotary technique. So, to cover large areas, pieces are matched and joined to form larger sheets. The different ways the pieces can be matched will affect the finished look due to the different grain patterns.


Book matched


Possibly the most common method used to match grain patterns is the book match. Each piece is set so it mirrors the piece adjacent to it, so the pieces sit in pairs. This creates a symmetrical pattern. The only problem book matched pieces might have is that the alternate faces of the veneer can reflect light differently and might stain in different shades.

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Slip matched


Slip matches keep each piece of veneer facing the same direction and joined next to each other, in the order they were cut, so the pattern appears to almost repeat itself. This produces a uniform but unsymmetrical pattern. It should retain a consistent colour across the face as each piece faces the same direction.


Reverse slip matched


This match also keeps each veneer piece facing the same direction, but every other piece is turned upside down. This match is often used with flat cut veneers because it alternates which end the domed cathedral shapes would be at. This match will maintain the same kind of colour consistency as slip-matched veneers.


Random matched

This match can use any piece of veneer, from the same species, next to any other. The width of each piece, as well as the colours and grain patterns, will differ, and may even come from different logs. This creates an inconsistent face pattern.


Pleasing matched 


This match uses pieces which can come from any part of the log, or even a number of different logs. They're arranged primarily for similarities in colour, so there are no sharp colour contrasts at the joints. Otherwise, the pieces have random widths and grain patterns. 


Butt matched


With the butt match, veneer pieces are matched end to end, rather than side by side. It is sometimes called an end match. The butt joined pieces are then usually matched with other butt joined pieces via either a book or slip match.

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Specialist matches

For a more decorative panel, there are some more specialist matches which can be used to create distinctive patterns. They're generally more labour intensive to join, which can make them more expensive than other veneers. There is a huge array of possible designs due to the diversity of natural wood. Here are some of the most common options:


'V' matched

Veneer panels with straight grain patterns can easily be paired up to create a V-shaped pattern. Two or more of these pairs can be joined to form a herringbone pattern, sometimes referred to as herringbone or chevron matching.


Quarter matched

Quarter matched specifically refer to four panels being joined with butt and book matches to create a piece which has vertical and horizontal symmetries, but not a diagonal one. This is often used for veneers with particularly distinctive grain features to create an interesting pattern. Quarter-matched panels with straight grains are typically named after the shape they form ...


...diamond and reverse diamond matched

Other patterns which can be created by quarter matching sheets, but using pieces with straight grain patterns, are called diamond matched, producing a closed diamond shape, and reverse diamond matched, which produces an X shape. 


... square and reverse square matched 

When the orientation of the straight grains is altered it can be used to produce a square shape or stripes which extend from the centre lines. 

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      Wonkee Donkee says "The ancient Egyptians used wood veneers. Items discovered in tombs show how inferior materials were covered with a thin panel of high-quality wood to enhance its appearance."  
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