Methods and Techniques of Wood Veneer Matching

Wood veneer is a key element in vintage furniture and an important skill for refinishers to learn. As we know, a veneer is a thin slice of wood adhered to a substrate material. These veneer sheets are usually not incredibly wide, and therefore a single piece of veneer will often not cover the project you are working on. This is where veneer matching comes into play.  Proper veneer matching is crucial for achieving a seamless look and high-quality finish on your furniture projects. 

Raw walnut veneer is one type of wood veneer, laid out to be cut into smaller sizes
Raw Walnut Veneer, Laid Out. How to get the most of the wood grain?

Table of Contents

What is Veneer Matching?

Veneer matching is not just about aligning wood grain patterns and covering a larger surface. It’s about understanding the different styles, each with its unique characteristics and applications. This knowledge will elevate your understanding of wood veneer and give you the confidence to choose and create an organized flow in the wood grain that best suits your project. 

 

Developing this skill allows furniture refinishers to make repairs, replacements, and additions that blend seamlessly with existing veneers. The techniques create continuity and cohesion in the finished product. When done improperly, mismatched veneers can be an eyesore that ruins the aesthetic of quality wood furniture.

Common Types of Veneer Matching

There are two types of veneer matching, Book Matching and Slip Matching Veneer.  The most commonly used type of matching with burled veneer is Book Matching, while slip matching is a favourite for cathedral and straigher grained veneers.

Book Matching

Book matching involves joining adjacent veneer sheets in a mirrored pattern. The two sheets are laid side by side and opened like pages of a book. The critical point is that the veneer sheets must be two consecutive slices from the same piece of wood. The grain pattern should be virtually identical to create a symmetrical mirror image.

 

Book matching results in a centred pattern that provides visual uniformity across the surface. It produces a formal, balanced look and is often used with dramatic, burled wood grain, as it minimizes abrupt colour and pattern changes across the surface. The veneer joint between the two sheets disappears visually, creating the illusion of a continuous pattern.

 

Book matching can also sometimes lead to an unnatural appearance, with the patterning being too predictable. Colour differences between the two sides may also be noticeable, even though the overall flow is continuous.

Example of book matching burl veneer

Double Book Matching

An advanced version of book matching is double book matching. This involves taking your book matched veneer and flipping over the joint to include two additional veneer piece. By center matching the 4 pieces you create a four-piece symmetrical pattern. It’s a dramatic effect that is striking with figured woods like Burl.

 

This type of Veneer Matching is often also referred to as end matching veneer. As the veneer is matched end to end and side to side, it allows for maximum continuity of grain patterns. 

Example of double book matching veneer, also known as end matching.

Slip Matching

Slip matching is where consecutive veneer sheets are laid beside each other to create a repeating pattern. This creates a repetitive grain pattern and is often popular with cathedral grain patterns. This repeating grain pattern works well with straight or uniform grains and will create a smooth look for your project.

 

It is important to lay adjacent pieces of veneer from the same run to create the visual effect.

 

Slip matching is not ideal for burled and complex grain patterns but works well with a uniform grain pattern. It provides a calmer overall pattern than book matching. 

slip matching, where veneer is placed side by side in correct order

Less Common Types of Veneer Matching

In addition to book matching and slip matching, there are a few other less common types of veneer matching techniques furniture makers may utilize.

Random Matching

Random match veneer is a veneer technique where pieces are placed next to each other in a random order. The veneer pieces may be used out of sequence and oriented in different directions.

 

Random matching is commonly used when working with veneers with irregular grains or colour variations that would not complement the symmetry of traditional matching techniques. It creates a more rustic, casual look than the formal appearance of book-matched or slip-matched veneer.

 

Overall, random veneer matching provides flexibility for seamlessly utilizing varied grain patterns. Its a good use of shorter veneer leaves. The relaxed aesthetic lends itself well to many furniture styles and applications where a more formal match is not desired and a natural lumber effect is desired.

Random Veneer Pattern, using random pieces of similar coloured veneer to stimulate natural lumber

Spin Matching

Spin matching is a technique used in wood veneering where consecutive leaves of veneer are rotated 180 degrees relative to each other before they are applied. This creates a symmetrical, mirror-like pattern that often resembles a series of spinning shapes. 

Example of Spin matching where every second piece is rotated 180 degrees

Laying out your Veneer

When aligning your veneer pattern of choice, it is important to know the consecutive order of your veneer sheets. Having labelled or numbered veneer sheets helps achieve this pattern. 

 

Lay your veneer sheets out and align them to achieve the veneer pattern of your choice. Once aligned, small pieces of veneer tape can help hold the matches in place. 

 

Veneer tape is a valuable tool in laying out your veneer. It not only holds the veneer joint together but also hold the veneer in the correct sequence, aiding in the visualization of the final pattern.

 

When sanding and finishing matched veneers, take extra care around the seams. Use fine-grit sandpaper and sand lightly to avoid sanding through the thin veneer. Apply finishes like stain, paint, or clear coat as evenly as possible across the matches so any colour variation blends smoothly.

lay out your veneer and determine the pattern you wish to use.
Raw Walnut Veneer laid out in book matching style

Final Thoughts

Furniture refinishers should be familiar with the different ways to match veneer. After all, those veneer patterns on your furniture items have been chosen for a specific reason. To enhance the details in the wood veneer sheets used. 

 

Book matching creates a mirrored image and is popular with burled veneer and slip matching has a repetitive pattern ideal for straighter, wood grains. Other less utilized matching types include random and spin matching. Each type of veneer pattern has its pros and cons in use, and you will want to be sure that you make the right choice to optimize the type of grain you are working with. 

 

Taking the time to precisely align the edges and match patterns will lead to your desired results. Using veneer tape on the joints will help you work out your pattern before application to your furniture piece. 

 

Patience and a keen eye for detail are paramount in the veneer matching process. Taking the time to align edges,  matching patterns precisely and reviewing the pattern from a distance ensures the most appealing veneer matching for your project. While the process requires finesse, the striking results are a testament to the effort invested. Mastering this skill opens up new design possibilities and allows refinishers to breathe new life into fine furniture.

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Hey, I'm Sarah, the owner of Bold Wallflowers.

I'm on a self-taught journey through furniture refinishing and restoration, loving every experiment in my workshop.

Join me as I share my discoveries and gained knowledge with our vibrant community of fellow refinishers!

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