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Veneer Descriptions

Ash, White (Fraxinus americana) Oak, Red (plain sawn) (Quercus rubra)
Birch, Yellow - “Natural" (Betula alleghaniensis) Oak, Red (rift sawn) (Quercus rubra)
Birch, Yellow - “Select Red" (heartwood)
(Betula alleghaniensis)
Oak, White (plain sawn) (Quercus alba)
Birch, Yellow - “Select White" (sapwood) (Betula alleghaniensis) Oak, White (quarter sawn) (Quercus alba)
Cherry, American Black (Prunus serotina) Pine, Ponderosa (Pinus ponderosa)
Cypress, Yellow (Taxodium distichum) Pine, Southern Yellow (Short Leaf) (Pinusechinata)
Fir, Douglas (Flat Grain) (Pseudotsuga taxifolla) Poplar, Yellow (Liriodendron tulipfera)
Mahogany, African (plain sawn) (Khayaivorensis) Redwood, Flat Grain (Heartwood)
(Sequoia sempervirens)
Mahogany, Genuine or American
(Swietenia macrophylla)
Teak (Tectona grandis)
Maple, Hard - “Natural" (Acer saccharum) American Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Maple, Hard - “Select White" (Sapwood)
(Acer saccharum)
Zebrawood, African (quarter sawn)
(Brachystegea fleuryana)
English Brown Oak (Quercus robur) Other Species

Ash, White (Fraxinus americana)
While White Ash has always enjoyed widespread use for industrial products where hardness, shock resistance, stability and strength were important, its acceptance for architectural woodwork is increasing. It is open grained and has a strong and pronounced grain pattern. The heartwood is light tan or brown and its sapwood creamy white. Color contrast between the two is minor and its blond effect makes it particularly appealing when a light or near natural finish is desired. Finished with darker tones it presents a very forthright, honest, and virile effect. Its cost is moderate and it is readily available in lumber form. In veneered form some size limitation may be experienced but it can be easily produced on special order.

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Birch, Yellow - “Natural" (Betula alleghaniensis)

Birch, Yellow - “Select Red" (heartwood) (Betula alleghaniensis)

Birch, Yellow - “Select White" (sapwood) (Betula alleghaniensis)
Yellow Birch has been and continues to be one of the prominent wood species used for architectural woodwork. This is due not only to its attractive appearance but also to its general availability both as lumber and as veneered products, its adaptability to either paint or transparent finish, and its abrasion resistance. The heartwood of the tree varies in color from medium to dark brown or reddish brown while its sapwood, which comprises a better than average portion of the tree, is near white. Despite its wide usage some confusion exists as to the common terms used to describe Birch lumber and/or veneer. Virtually all commercially used Birch is cut from the Yellow Birch tree, not from the White Birch tree, which botanically is a distinct species.

The term “Natural" or “Unselected" Birch means that the lumber or veneer may contain both the sapwood, or white portion, as well as the heartwood, or dark portion, of the tree in unrestricted amounts. The term “Select Red" Birch describes the lumber or veneer produced from the heartwood portion of the tree, and the term “Select White" Birch describes the lumber or veneer produced from the sapwood portion of the tree. To obtain “Red" or “White" Birch exclusively requires selective cutting with corresponding cost premium as well as considerable restriction on the width and length availability in lumber form. Birch, in veneer form, is readily available in all “selections" and is usually rotary cut. While some sliced veneer is produced which simulates the same grain effect as lumber, its availability and cost reflect the same cutting restrictions that are incurred in producing the “select" forms of Birch lumber.

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Cherry, American Black (Prunus serotina)
Wild Black American Cherry is a fine and especially stable close grained cabinet and veneer wood. Its heartwood color ranges from light to medium reddish brown. Its sapwood, which is a light creamy color, is usually selectively eliminated from the veneer and lumber. In some respects it resembles Red Birch, but has a more uniform grain and is further characterized by the presence of small dark gum spots which, when sound, are not considered as defects but add to its interest. Cherry is available in moderate supply as lumber and architectural paneling and is usually plain sawn or sliced. Exceptionally rich appearance is achieved with transparent finishes which, together with its fine machining characteristics, justifies its identity with Early
American cabinetry and furniture manufacturing, thus adding to its prestige as one of our most desirable native woods.

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Cypress, Yellow (Taxodium distichum)
While Cypress is still prevalent throughout the south, distinction should be made between the type now generally available and what was once known as “Tidewater Red Cypress." The latter, once the “premium" wood for exterior applications, is now virtually extinct and subject to limited usage. The currently available Cypress lumber, while similar in appearance, does not contain the heartwood of inherently high decay resistance once associated with the species, and in lumber form contains a high percentage of sapwood. Thus, like most softwoods, preservative treatment is imperative if used on the exterior. While this does not preclude its exterior application, it is perhaps more generally utilized for paneling where its strong, bold grain is best displayed.

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Fir, Douglas (Flat Grain) (Pseudotsuga taxifolla)
Douglas-Fir is a large, fast-growing species and is native to the northwest. It accounts for much of the lumber produced in North America. While the preponderance of its production is developed for structural and construction type products, some of its upper grades are used for stock millwork and specialized woodwork. Its heartwood is reddish tan while its sapwood is creamy yellow. Since its growth rings are conspicuous, a rather bold grain pattern develops when either plain sawn for lumber or rotary cut as is common in plywood. Some lumber and veneer is cut edge or vertical grain, producing a superior form of the product since the tendency to “grain-raise" is greatly reduced.

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Mahogany, African (plain sawn) (Khayaivorensis)
This, one of the true Mahoganies, is perhaps the most widely used of the several Mahogany species. This is due to its excellent cutting and working characteristics and versatility. While its use has been largely for interior purposes, its innate stability and moderate decay resistance justifies its consideration for selected and demanding exterior applications. It has a very pleasing open grain, with its heartwood ranging in color from light to medium dark reddish brown. In lumber form it is more readily available as plain sawn and selectively so as quarter sawn. In veneer form the quarter or “ribbon striped" cut predominates, but plain sliced, as well as many of the exotic “figure" cuts, can be produced on special order.

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Mahogany, Genuine or American (Swietenia macrophylla)
This Mahogany species is commonly known as “Honduras Mahogany," but actually encompasses all of this species that grow throughout Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Central America. Its traditional identity with fine cabinetry and furniture justifies its position as one of the finest woods for this purpose. Its stability, workability, warm appearance, and firm grain make it a favorite of all woodworking craftsmen. It is a semi-open grain wood, with its heartwood color ranging from light tan to a rich golden brown depending to some extent on the country of its origin. Its outstanding stability and decay resistance expands its potential to include exterior applications for “monumental" projects. It is most generally available as plain sawn lumber
and plain sliced veneer with different veneer cuts available on special order.

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Maple, Hard - “Natural" (Acer saccharum)

Maple, Hard - “Select White" (Sapwood) (Acer saccharum)
Hard Maple is very similar in general characteristics to Yellow Birch. It is heavy, hard, strong, and resistant to shock and abrasion. The heartwood of the tree is reddish brown and its sapwood is near white with a slight reddish-brown tinge. Another natural characteristic is the prevalence of dark mineral streaks (predominantly in the heartwood), which can be minimized in the sapwood by selective cutting. Like Birch, common usage of descriptive terms does occasion some confusion. The term “Natural" or “Unselected" Maple indicates that the lumber or veneer may contain both the white sapwood and the darker heartwood. The term “White" Maple means that the lumber or veneer is selected and separated from the pieces containing the dark heartwood. Unlike Birch, the heartwood is so low in content that no comparable selection is available. Maple?fs close
identity with furniture and specialized industrial use overshadows its potential for architectural woodwork. Its modest cost, and pleasing, mild grain pattern warrants its consideration, especially on items subject to hard usage.

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English Brown Oak (Quercus robur)
The English Brown Oak, or Pollard Oak is a tree which varies in height from 18-40 m [60'-130'] depending on soil conditions. It varies in color from a light tan to a deep brown with occasional black spots. It produces burls and swirls which are very brittle and fragile, but beautiful work can be obtained with their use. English Brown Oak is considered one of the finest woods in use today. English Brown Oak is obtained from trees which have had their tops cut out before reaching maturity. This pruning leads to the production of a number of new branches around the cut, and if these are subsequently lopped off, more new branches are formed.

This wood is difficult to season and to work, tending to warpand twist in drying and to tear in working. The best figure is obtained from trees which have been cut over regularly every few years, the branches never being left sufficiently long for the production of large knots. The constant exposure of freshly cut surfaces promotes attack from parasites, the result being that a considerable portion of these trees become decayed sooner or later. This has made the timber relatively scarce and costly.

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Oak, Red (plain sawn) (Quercus rubra)

Oak, Red (rift sawn) (Quercus rubra)
Red Oak is one of the most abundant of our domestic hardwoods. Its moderate cost, strength, wearability, and appealing grain characteristics make its use widespread. It is open grained and in its plain sawn or sliced form expresses a very strong “cathedral" type grain pattern. The heartwood is reddish tan to brown and very uniform in color. Its sapwood is lighter in color and minimal in volume, making its elimination by selective cutting very easy. Red Oak is also available in rift sawn or sliced form, which produces a very uniform straight grained effect. Less frequently it is quarter sawn or sliced, still producing a straight grain but with the fleck (sometimes called flake) of the medullary ray accented. Some sacrifice in width and length availability occurs when producing either rift or quarter sawn lumber.

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Oak, White (plain sawn) (Quercus alba)

Oak, White (quarter sawn) (Quercus alba)
White Oak, like Red Oak, is perhaps one of the best-known hardwoods in the world, and its use for architectural woodwork is widespread. It is hard and strong. Its heartwood has good weathering characteristics, making its use for selected exterior applications appropriate. It is open grained and in its plain sawn form is highly figured. The heartwood varies considerably in color from light grayish tan to brown, making the maintenance of color consistency difficult. Its sapwood is much lighter in color, is fairly prevalent, and its elimination is accomplished by selective ripping. White Oak is often rift sawn or sliced, producing a very straight-grained effect or frequently quarter sawn or sliced, producing straight grain, but with the fleck (sometimes called flake) of the medullary ray greatly pronounced. The special cuts mentioned are more
readily attained in veneer form since the solid lumber cutting techniques greatly restrict its width and length potential.

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Pine, Ponderosa (Pinus ponderosa)
Ponderosa Pine is said to be the softwood species most commonly used for exterior and interior woodwork components. Its heartwood is tannish pink, while its sapwood is a lighter creamy pink. Its supply is extensive; found in commercial quantities in every state west of the Great Plains. Ponderosa Pine grows in pure stands and is abundant in mixed stands. Also, like most Pines, the proportion of sapwood is high and its heartwood has only a moderate natural decay resistance. Fortunately, its receptivity to preservative treatment is high, and since all Pines should be so treated when used on the exterior, it can be used interchangeably with them.

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Pine, Southern Yellow (Short Leaf) (Pinusechinata)
Southern Yellow Pine, commonly called Short Leaf Pine, is commercially important in Arkansas, Virginia, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and South and North Carolina, and is found in varying abundance from New York and south central Pennsylvania, south and westerly to eastern Texas and Oklahoma.

The yellowish wood is noticeably grained, moderately hard, strong, and stiff. A cubic foot of air-dried Southern Yellow Pine weighs 36 to 39 pounds. It is used extensively in house building, including framing, ceiling, weather boarding, panels, window and door frames, casing, and carved work. The grain shows well in natural finish or when stained. Frames of overstuffed furniture, chairs, desks, agricultural machinery, wood pulp, mine props, barrels, and crates are also made of this Pine.

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Poplar, Yellow (Liriodendron tulipfera)
Yellow Poplar, sometimes incorrectly called “Whitewood," is an extremely versatile and moderately priced hardwood that is well adapted to general interior woodwork usage. It is even textured, close grained, stable, of medium hardness, and has an inconspicuous grain pattern. The heartwood is pale greenish yellow while the sapwood is white. Occasional dark purple streaks also occur. The tight, close grain results in outstanding paintability, while its modest figure and even texture permits staining to simulate more expensive hardwood. Due to its indistinct grain figure, Poplar is seldom used for decorative veneered products. Its white sapwood is not appropriate for use in exterior applications.

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Redwood, Flat Grain (Heartwood) (Sequoia sempervirens)
Redwood is the product of one of nature?fs most impressive accomplishments. The enormous size and unique inherent characteristics of this tree produce a material ideally suited for exterior applications. Its heartwood color is a fairly uniform brownish red, while its very limited sapwood is lemon colored. In its plain sawn form medium “cathedral" type figure develops, while in the vertical grain a longitudinal striped figure results. Its availability in “all heartwood" form with its outstanding natural resistance to decay accounts for its wide usage for exterior purposes. It is considered a very stable wood and its paint retention qualities are excellent. Redwood?fs principal identity with painted exterior application should not preclude its consideration for either exterior or interior use with transparent finish. Its pleasing and uniform color lends itself to a variety of
such finishes suggesting the warmth and honesty of wood in its natural state. The enormous size of the trees yields lumber of unusually character-free widths and lengths.

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Teak (Tectona grandis)
Teak is one of the most versatile and valuable woods and has attained great prestige value. The figure variations are extensive and it is available in both lumber and veneered products. Adding to its appeal is its distinctive tawny yellow to green to dark brown color, often with light and dark accent streaks. It is perhaps most appealing in plain sawn or sliced cuts. While it has unique stability and weathering properties, making it ideal for exterior applications, its high cost usually limits its use to decorative interior woodwork, most often in veneer form. Its great beauty and interest dictate it being finished in its near “natural state."

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American Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
American Black Walnut is perhaps our most highly prized domestic wood species. Its grain pattern variations are extensive and in veneered form produces, in addition to its normal plain sliced cut, quartered or “pencil striped" as well as specialty cuts such as crotches, swirls, burls, and others. Its heartwood color varies from gray brown to dark purplish brown. The sapwood, which is very prevalent in solid lumber, is cream colored and its complete elimination by selective cutting is very costly. Fortunately, if this natural effect is felt to be undesirable, its appearance can be neutralized by sap staining in the finishing process. The growth conditions of Walnut result in significant width and length limitations in its lumber form. Its potential is best expressed in veneered products.

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Zebrawood, African (quarter sawn) (Brachystegea fleuryana)
The Zebrawood tree is an equatorial tree of medium size, obtaining a height of about 20 m [65'] with a diameter of about 1 m [3']. The sapwood is pale in color and distinct from the heartwood, which is of a creamy yellow color veined or striped with very dark brown or black. The striped effect is seen at its best when the wood is quarter sawn.

The wood is reported to be easy to saw but somewhat difficult to work with other tools. It is claimed that there is little tendency for the wood to “work" after seasoning. It has been used for a number of years for cabinet work, fine joinery, fancy turnings, and veneers. By careful selection of veneered material, the skilled craftsman can obtain very beautiful effects in paneled work. In large panels, a very striking and attractive result may be obtained when using Zebrawood.

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Other Species
There are many other species, both domestic and imported, used in fine woodworking. Nearly all are ecologically sound and appropriate for use. Using fine hardwoods for architecture gives value to the species, encouraging improved forest management techniques and the continuation of the species. As of March 2001, there are only four tree species listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I restricted table: Brazilian Rosewood, Monkey Puzzle Tree, Guatemalan Fir, and Alerce. Contact your local woodwork manufacturer for up-to-date information or visit

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Did you know ...

... that managed forests, thanks to their high proportion of young, strong, growing trees, enable CO2 to be extracted?

... that an old, unmanaged forest produces as much CO2 through processes of decomposition and decay as it stores, and that therefore an unmanaged forest contributes nothing to reducing global CO2?

Design Intent

Veneer Considerations

Veneer Gallery

Types of Plywood

Types of Panel Core

Types of Facing Materials

Veneer Matching

Wood as a Plant

QSI Lumber Grades

Use of Reclaimed Timber

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