Figure is the wavy textures across the face of the wood veneer, giving the impression of an uneven surface although smooth. The effect is due to reflected light on the uneven arrangements of the fibers. Figure may be due to the wrinkling or bending, in wave formation, of the growth rings due to wind, uneven bark pressure, indention on the surface of the tree by vines, fungi, etc. The value of wood increases greatly when figured.
Fiddleback is clearly visible, regular streaks running across the grain. The more regular the streaks, the more valuable the veneer. Logs for fiddleback veneers are typically quartersawn. This produces nearly perpendicular patterns running from edge to edge. Fiddleback is most known to occur in Anigre, Sycamore, and Makore. Fiddleback gets its name because it’s often used for the backs of violins. It is also sometimes called “crossfire.”
Pommele is a small- to medium-sized blister figure. The more uniform and heavy the blister, the more valuable. It is usually found in very large trees of African species like Sapele, Bubinga and Makore. Pommele is sometimes referred to as “blistered.”
Mottle is an irregular form of figure that runs across the entire surface of the veneer. It is typically identified by its wavy spiral-like grain. This causes the veneer to have a wrinkled or blotchy figure. The mottled figure can be very random, often referred to as “broken mottle.” It can also be referred to as checkerboard-like, or “block mottle.” Mahogany, Sapele and Bubinga all have a tendency to be mottled.
The name itself describes this figure best. There are many theories on what causes Birdseye. Some say it is from a worm infested tree, some say it’s caused by birds and insects, while others think it is from a disease. Whatever the reason, it was once considered defective wood. Now, it is considered highly valuable. Birdseye is typically rotary cut to produce uniform round eyes. Birdseye is usually found in Maple, but can be found in other species on rare occasions.
Crotch comes from the intersection of a main limb or branch and the trunk of the tree. The appearance of this figure varies. The more precise and distinct the curl or crotch, the better the quality. Crotch is seldom found in large sizes. Mahogany and Walnut Crotch veneers are the most well known.
Burls are abnormal growth or wart-like phenomena. Irritation or injury forms an interwoven, contorted, or gnarly mass of dense wood fibers. They give the appearance of tight clusters of dormant buds. Each has dark pith caused by stunted growth that failed to develop into a branch. In most species the burls are large and decorative. Burl veneer is highly valued.
Highly figure veneers that have the appearance of folds, or blister-like patterns. Most commonly found in Maple.