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Some of the FF&E specifications you'll need to know and look for when researching architectural woodwork include:

1. Types of Veneer Cuts

2. Grains & Figuring

3. Material Selection


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What is veneer?


Veneer is a thin layer of wood which is cut from the vertical trunk of a tree. In woodworking, veneer refers to thin slices of wood, usually thinner than 0.1181 in (1/8 inch), that typically are glued onto core panels of substrates (typically wood, particle board, or MDF to produce flat panels such as doors, tops and flat panels for cabinets, and parts of furniture).

Veneer is obtained either by "peeling" the trunk of a tree or by slicing large rectangular blocks of wood into thin sheets that are laminated to substrates, known as flitches. The appearance of the grain and figure in wood comes from slicing through the growth rings of a tree and depends upon the angle at which the wood is sliced. Each type of slicing (cut) process gives a very distinctive type of grain, depending upon the tree species, providing a particular aesthetical look.

In addition, the way the veneer cuts are matched produces a unique look. As mentioned, veneer is obtained by slicing a rectangular block of wood into thin sheets. Sheets cut from the same block are called a flitch. As you move / flip through the flitch, the grain will have a consistent flow from one sheet to the next, as they all come from the same tree and are cut in succession.

The appearance of the grain on the veneer depends greatly on how the block of wood is cut. Each "cut" has its own look, allowing the same species of wood to take on different appearances.

Veneer Cuts for whitepaper.jpg

As mentioned in "The Real Wood Bible" by Nick Gibbs, (1) Woodworkers never stop talking about the grain of a wood. The grain is the texture seen in a cut surface of wood. Here are the main issues that keep them talking, and what designers consider when planning a custom hotel furniture piece:


This refers to the "openness" of the grain. Most woods can be classified as coarse (open) grain, or fine (closed) grain. Closed grained woods are easier to bring into a high sheen level, while this will be much harder to achieve on an open grain wood. For hospitality use, while high sheens are used and can be achieved by using different veneer variations, open grain veneers such as walnut, oak and sapele are recommended for natural finishes and provide a durable surface to withstand the day to day abuse furniture takes.


The figure & grain are different things; however the figuring of a wood piece is affected by the grain.

In fact, the figure of a particular piece of wood is, in part, due to its grain and, in part due to the cut, or to innate properties of the wood. A few of the most unique figuring can be found on woods such as: rosewood, walnut and maple.


From left to right: ROSEWOOD, OAK & MAPLE.

Figuring can also be referred to as curling or a curl. Figuring and curling can also occur from movement or swaying of the tree in windy environments.


Selecting appropriate materials and finishes for a project requires considering more than aesthetics. Specifications should be durable, functional, and meet budgetary and safety needs of the project:

  • Making an initial selection - select materials that meet the budgetary and design requirements. If unsure, consult with your FF&E supplier for advice.

  • Industry standards - consider whether an item conforms to industry standards, and whether requirements are mandatory or optional, depending on the location of the project.

  • Codes / regulations - there may be federal, state or local governance related to FF&E, such as flammability requirements.

  • Samples / mockups - it is recommended to procure actual samples or mock-ups from the vendor for final approval by the designer and client. Be sensitive to the timeline that this may require. Each project may vary depending on the number of pieces and design complexity.

  • Work with a supplier that can advise if the material selection is appropriate for your project.

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