Wood Veneer Matching

It is important for architects and interior designers to understand how selecting a wood veneer matching technique can change the appearance of the project. Specification writers can be helpful in achieving a certain look, but the designer needs to be able to describe the process to the contractor involved in the project.

We have an article that gives more information about how veneers are cut from a log, which determines how the veneer itself looks. This article helps you understand how veneers are combined into panels.

Wood Veneer Matching - Adjacent Leaves

Varying the matching of adjacent wood panels offers the designer many options for wood aesthetics.  Due to the natural growth of trees, matching and coloring of wood panels is an inexact science.  This often causes conflict between designers and manufacturers.  However, if the designer is aware of the natural variation in wood, many pleasing aesthetics are possible.

Slip Matching

The panels are"slipped" over without turning or flipping.  The effect is a repeating pattern in which the grain lines are not continuous. Slip matching is especially pleasing with rift or quarter sawn lumber, where the grain tends to be straight.  Since the panels are not flipped, light reflects the same from board to board and stain is accepted equally.

Diagram of Slip Match Veneer (Adjacent Leaves)
Slip Match (Adjacent Leaves)

Book Matching

The panels are slid and flipped, much like the pages of a book.  This creates a repeating pattern over 2 panels where the grain lines connect at either end.  Since the panels are flipped, light is refracted differently on adjacent panels and stains may be accepted differently.  This sometimes creates a barber-pole effect, where panels alternate from a lighter shade to a darker shade.  Certain species of wood accentuate this effect.

Diagram of Book Match Veneer (Adjacent Leaves)
Book Match (Adjacent Leaves)

Random Match

The panels are placed in a random order and orientation. This provides a completely random and unmatched look.

Diagram of Random Match Veneer (Adjacent Leaves)
Random Match (Adjacent Leaves)

Wood Veneer End Matching

There are three main types of end matching, which are used in combination with book or slip matching: Architectural End Match Veneer, Continuous End Match Veneer, and Panel End Match Veneer.

Architectural End Match

This match has leaves that are book or slip matched, first end-to-end, and then side-to-side.  This creates then most regular grain line continuity - i.e. the grain lines come closest at panel joints.  The diagram below is considered, Book Match, Architectural End Match.  The numbers indicate the order that the slices are placed.

Diagram of Architectural End Match Veneer
Architectural End Match Veneer

Continuous End Match

This end match has leaves that are book or slip matched in a continuous patter, either vertically or horizontally.  The diagram below is a Slip Match, Continuous End Match with Horizontal Sequencing. The numbers indicate the order in which the slices are placed.

Diagram of Continuous End Match Veneer
Continuous End Match Veneer

Panel End Match

This match has leaves that are book or slip matched into large assemblies.  Then the assemblies are broken into sub-assemblies and stacked in an end match.  Due to the way that the panels are matched, the grain will not align at the ends; however, there is a cost savings associated with this type of matching.

Diagram of Panel End Match Veneer
Panel End Match Veneer

Wood Veneer Balance Matching

Within a certain panel, leaves can be balance matched or running matched.  Balance matched panels can also be center matched.

Running Match

Since it generates the least waste, a running match is cheapest.  Leaves are placed in order of slicing onto a panel until the end of the panel.  The final leaf may not have the same width as previous panels.  The first leaf of the next panel uses the left-over portion of the previous leaf.  These are referred to as  remainders and are highlighted in the diagram below.

Diagram of Running Match Veneer
Veneer Running Match

Balance Match

A step up from the running match is a balance match, where the width of the leaves is consistent across a panel.

Diagram of Balance Match Veneer
Veneer Balance Match

Balance and Center Match

The most aesthetically appealing is a balance and center match, where the leaves are all the same width and the grain pattern is centered on the panel.  This is the most labor intensive and, therefore, is most expensive.

Diagram of a Balance and Center Match Veneer
Balance and Center Match Veneer


If you would like a deeper discussion about wood veneer matching, refer to the AWI Woodworking Standards.

Article Updated: November 7, 2021

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