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Maple veneer is cut from logs of trees in the Acer genus, which contains about 125 species. Because different species have different grain patterns, the veneer often has beautiful and distinctive patterns. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is an especially popular choice for making this product.
As with other types of veneering, maple veneer is created by laying very thin pieces of a beautiful or exotic wood — in this case, maple — over a substrate to create a more beautiful and expensive-looking product. Today, the maple layer is usually 1/90 to 1/40 inch (0.028 to 0.064 cm) thick. It is used for small ornamental projects, fine furniture, and paneling.
Maple veneer can be cut in two ways: from a log that is rotated or from the flat surface of a large piece of wood called a flitch. A stack of eight pieces of veneer is also called a flitch. Usually, flat cut veneer has a pattern that is considered more attractive than that of rotary cut veneer, so this method is typically used. The angle of the cutting blade contributes to the pattern of the finished veneer, as does the natural grain of the wood.
Bird’s eye veneer is usually cut from sugar maples, or Acer saccharum. The smooth lines of the wood grain are disrupted by tiny swirls repeated frequently across the straight cut flitch. The pattern is distinctive. The “eyes” are created during the tree’s growth when a sugar deficit causes the tree to abort tiny new shoots.
Curly maple veneer is created from trees in which the wood grain varies in a smooth, undulating pattern of wavy lines. It is also called flame maple or tiger stripe. This veneer is usually cut from Acer pseudoplatanus. It is quartersawn from the flitch.
Quilted veneer is made when the flat cut reveals an overall wavy pattern. The shapes look a little like ripples on water. This pattern is mostly frequently found in Acer macrophyllum, also called bigleaf or broadleaf maple.