Cherry veneer is a product derived from the cherry tree, and is used to create furniture, flooring, and doors. A veneer is a sheet of wood, as thin as 1/40th of an inch (.635 mm), which is often bonded to plywood or other inexpensive wood cores. By using veneers, one can enjoy the look of cherry without the high cost of solid wood. The use of veneer also helps to preserve natural resources.
Most of the cherry veneer used in North America comes from the northeast U.S. or southeast Canada. It is a rather expensive material, especially when compared to birch or oak veneers. Cherry veneer is one of the easiest woods to work with, and is prized for its smooth grain pattern and rich color. The grain pattern of cherry veneer depends on several factors, including how the wood was cut and how the sheets of veneer were matched.
There are four basic ways to cut wood veneer from a log, and each results in a distinct look and grain pattern. With plain slicing, sheets of veneer are cut parallel to a line through the center of the log, resulting in a smooth pattern with the least amount of grain variation. Using a rotary cut, the log is spun on a lathe as slices are cut from around the perimeter. This works best for birch or oak due to the grain patterns of those woods.
With a quarter cut, the log is first quartered, then slices are cut in a radial direction towards the center of the log. This is the most popular cut for cherry as it emphasizes the “flecks” of “flash” pattern in the grain. Rift cutting is similar to quarter cutting, but reduces the amount of flecks in the pattern by cutting the quarter at an angle.
Once the cherry veneer is removed from the log, the veneer sheets are stacked in the order they were cut. The sheets are then joined together in a process known as “matching,” where the type of look desired determines the way the sheets should be laid out. One of the most common techniques is the book match, where every other sheet of veneer is flipped over, creating a mirror effect. When working with quarter or rift cut cherry, however, a more symmetrical balance or center balance match may be desired. This involves hand selecting veneer sheets and matching them so they create a pleasing, even effect when joined.
After the cherry veneer has been cut and matched, it is shipped to distributors. It is often shipped raw, where the sheets are kept in the order they were cut. This way buyers can use the veneer to create their own cherry furniture or doors. Veneer can also be paper-backed, creating sheets of pre-matched cherry veneer. Many buyers find this material easier to work with, especially when wrapping a curved surface like a column or rounded piece of furniture.