Figure is the wavy textures across the face of the wood veneer that looks like an uneven surface although it is smooth. The effect is because of reflected light on the uneven arrangements of the fibers. Figure may be because of wrinkling or bending of the growth rings. With this in mind, figure could be caused uneven bark pressure, such as wind. In other words, indention on the surface of the tree is believed to cause figure. Generally speaking, the value of wood significantly increases when figured.
Fiddleback is used for the backs of violins. This figure is visible, regular streaks running across the grain. The more regular the streaks, the more valuable the wood veneer. Logs for fiddleback veneers are typically quartersawn. This produces perpendicular patterns running from edge to edge. Fiddleback is most known to occur in Anigre, Sycamore, and Makore. We also sometimes call this “crossfire.”
We sometimes refer to Pommele as “blistered.” Pommele is a small- to medium-sized blister figure. The more uniform and heavy the blister, the more valuable the wood veneer. We find Pommele in large African trees such as Sapele, Bubinga and Makore.
Mottle is an irregular form of figure that runs across the entire surface of the veneer. We identify Mottle by its wavy spiral-like grain, which causes the veneer to have a wrinkled or blotchy figure. The mottled figure can be random, often called “broken mottle.” This figure can also be referred to as checkerboard-like, or “block mottle.” Mahogany, Sapele and Bubinga 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. As a matter of fact, Birdseye was once considered to be defective wood. Now, it is considered highly valuable. Birdseye is typically rotary cut to produce uniform round eyes. Birdseye is found in Maple, but can also 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 to a tree forms an interwoven mass of dense wood fibers. Burls look like tight clusters of dormant buds. Each has dark pith because of stunted growth that failed to develop into a branch. Burls are large and decorative; for this reason, we place high value on burl veneer in our industry.
Quilted figure is most commonly found in Maple. This type of figure looks like folds, and specifically blister-like patterns.