Grain patterns on wood doors

Commercial Wood Doors: Grain Patterns Explained


What many people may not know is that there is an art to assembling veneer and each technique produces different patterns and results. Below are some of the common questions when working with and selecting veneer styles for your commercial wood doors.

What Are Some of the Most Common Techniques When Matching Wood Veneers?

Book Match: Every other piece of veneer is turned over so that the two planes mirror each other. This gives the impression of an opened book, and creates a symmetrical pattern. Book matching is the most commonly used veneer matching type in the industry.

Slip Match: The action of matching adjoining pieces of veneer in a sequence without turning over alternating pieces, like dealing a deck of cards. The grain figure repeats, but joints won’t have a mirrored, or “open book” effect.

What Causes the Variation in Coloring?

When you see a variation in color between pieces of book matched veneer, it is referred to as “barber poling.” Since wood is a natural product, when it is sliced it causes a distortion of the grain. As the knife blade hits the wood it creates a “loose” side where the cells have been opened up by the blade, and a “tight” side. When the book matching technique is applied the “tight” and “loose” faces alternate on the adjacent pieces of veneer. These “tight” and “loose” faces may accept stain or reflect light differently, which ultimately can cause the variation of color. The door can appear to be stripped, like an old-fashioned barber pole.

Is “Barber Poling” a Defect?

Barber poling is not a defect; however, depending on the design and concept for the space, some may find the appearance undesirable. Barber poling also appears differently on different species and cuts of wood. It is most commonly seen with rift cut veneers but can appear on other cuts as well. For example, the first featured image happens to be that of a quartered cut and book matched cherry door. When determining which cut and veneer matching technique is right for you, it is best to consult a professional.

Is “Barber Poling” Preventable?

According to Jon Wech, a Wood Door Contract Purchasing Manager at LaForce for more than 15 years, the barber poling effect can be minimized by using a slip matching technique. When using the slip matching technique all of the “tight” faces, or all of the “loose” faces of the veneer are matched together and will have similar light reflection, therefore reducing the color variation. A disadvantage to slip matching is that the grains will not match up, or create a symmetrical pattern, and may not be as aesthetically pleasing to the eye. If book matching is preferred then the barber poling can be reduced with proper sanding and finishing techniques.

Which Technique is Preferred?

Although book matching is most common, there are many factors that come into play such as species and cut of wood, architectural and design space, and overall appearance. All in all, your LaForce representative can answer any questions or concerns related to your wood doors.

Special thanks to Kristi Dietz, AHC, the Engineering Training Manager at LaForce, and Jon Wech, Wood Door Contract Purchasing Manager at LaForce, for their assistance and expertise.