In previous editions we have discussed terminology in terms of species, specifications, descriptive phrases, and standards. Today, let us explore some esoteric expressions that have been in sporadic use for at least the 43 years I have been around the trade.
Confusing? You bet!
Many of the terms we will clarify in this segment have been around for years, used mostly in what now seems to be a by-gone era where wood smiths spoke and understood a colloquial language. Given the slow morphing into more modern manufacturing techniques and the accompanying new batch of youthful professionals in our industry not so familiar with our ancient ways, it is not surprising that terms like the ones listed below often generate a lot of confusion. Keep in mind, these should not be construed to be the official definitions, as most of the terms are considered commonly understood, not officially defined in any standard I have found.
So, let's talk about those terms
Narrow heart (no quarters) - This term has a very specific connotation regarding grain configuration in plain sliced veneer. Essentially, it means that the component width is neither too narrow nor too wide, usually no less than 5" and no more than 8," so as to provide an appearance of sawn lumber, with a classic cathedral feature, encompassing roughly 1/3 of the surface area of the component, reasonably centered within the component, and having roughly equal amounts of straight grain (quarters) on either side of the cathedral in that component. The added restriction, "no quarters," means no component in a narrow heart face shall consist of all straight grain (quarters) with no cathedral.
Desk grade - As the name infers, desk grade applies to veneer of any species that, when spliced for use as a desk top, is virtually devoid of any undesirable attributes, which may include figure, gum (cherry), knots, mineral, or even pin knots, to name a few. In other words: a very aesthetically appealing appearance.
Crown cut - Thomas Corkhill's "A Glossary of Wood," (Stobart Davies, 1979, ISBN 0 85442 010 X) defines crown cut lumber as "Sawn tangentially to annual (sic) rings. Flat sawn." However, when the term refers to veneer, it means plain sliced veneer that produces not only a well-defined, very pleasing cathedral appearance, but also, when spliced together, the cathedrals within the individual
Example of finished product using Sketch face veneers courtesy of Flexible Materials, Inc.
Sketch face - Also called "fancy face," veneers so classified generally consist of a number of components, cut to specified geometric shapes, and spliced together to form various configurations, including crotch, sunburst, herringbone, diamond, reverse diamond, or even certain burl or birds' eye patterns. The components of these veneers are typically bonded to a "sub-face" of an innocuous species such as yellow poplar, or, in certain applications to kraft paper, and are usually held together with copious quantities of perforated tape that must be carefully removed after production into a panel form.
Red - Usually a descriptive but misleading term meaning the heartwood of rotary cut birch. There is no species "red birch," but the term became popular many years ago when the heartwood of birch was isolated by rotary mills and offered as a "poor man's" version of the more expensive sliced cherry. Today, it is virtually impossible to accumulate enough "red" birch to satisfy any but the smallest niche market, and then only for a premium price and lengthy lead time.
White - Another misleading term that refers this time to the sapwood of either birch or maple. While there actually is a white birch species, by far the more commonly harvested of the Betula (birch) genus is yellow birch. Use of the term "white" for the sapwood of either of these species is generally discouraged, and indeed is not even indicated anywhere in the ANSI/HPVA HP-1 Standard.
Blue (denim pine) - This term, as it relates to pine, is generally associated with a bluish discoloration on the surface of sawn lumber or sliced veneer from the white pine group, which includes western white pine, eastern white pine, lodgepole pine, and spruce pine. It may be a result of mold colonization killed off during drying, or, more recently, pine beetle infestation.
Cabinet grade - A very misleading term, over-used and often disingenuous, cabinet grade essentially means anything as agreed to between buyer and seller that may or may not conform to any standard grade as included in ANSI/HPVA HP-1, but that satisfies both an economic and raw material need. Essentially, a G-E grade ("Good Enough!")
Good one side - An outdated term that at one time was in fact included in very early editions of the industry standard. CS 35-61 referred to the face of a hardwood plywood panel as "good." Yep...there really was a good one side grade. Just not any more...
Flat cut, flat sawn, plain sliced - All terms used to identify veneer that has been sliced on a tangential plane parallel to an imaginary line through the center of a log. I don't often offer my opinion as fact, but I am pretty sure that at one time the term "plain" somehow got substituted for the more accurate term, "plane." There is nothing plain about beautifully sliced face veneer!
Sawn (rift, quarter, plain) - Sliced. Originally, veneer was produced by re-sawing large timbers of highly prized species such as walnut, mahogany, or ebony for the piano industry. Today, it is pretty much all sliced.
Got your own term not listed here?
By no means would I consider the above list complete. I am certain many of you are struggling with your own confusing term or terms. If so, please share 'em with me. I will be happy to help clarify them and help you move on to greater challenges!
Note of caution: Including the terms above, every descriptive restriction on a given species further reduces the availability and impacts raw material costs!