In addition to the wood's specie, how it is cut from the log determines its appearance. There are two basic methods: Rotary cutting and Slicing, though many variations on sliced veneers yield very different appearances.
Rotary veneers are peeled from a log like paper coming off of a roll, though the veneers are not truly continuous. This method produces large pieces of veneer with very flat, random grain patterns. As the wood is peeled from the outside to the center of the log it moves from sapwood to heartwood which can be very different in color. Heartwood and sapwood may be combined in one piece of veneer. The advantage of rotary veneers is that it is generally the least expensive cutting method, and can provide large pieces of veneer and "whole piece faces". The disadvantage is that rotary veneers can have a bland appearance and may vary widely in color within the same panel though this can be specified out. Not all species of wood produce logs that can be rotary peeled and decorative softwoods are rarely rotary peeled.
Sliced veneers are produced from a log that has been prepared by cutting it into "cants", or large blocks. How these cants are cut and their orientation to the veneer knife will produce unique grain patterns from different wood species.
- PLAIN SLICED veneers are cut along a log's growth rings and typically present a cathedral grain pattern and pieces of veneer or "flitches" 6" to 12" wide. Plain Slicing produces the highest yield and is generally the least expensive slicing method. Half Round produces a similar pattern and size.
- QUARTER SLICED veneers are cut perpendicular to a log's growth rings and generally produce straight grained veneers. In many species this will reveal decorative figure in the wood like flake patterns in white oak. Quarter slicing produces smaller veneer flitches and is more expensive.
- RIFT CUT is general reserved for oak and is intended to produce a straight grain without exposing the flake pattern. Rift cutting is at a tangent to a log's growth rings.