Viewing Angle and Finishing Maple Plywood

Selecting a plywood with the right kind of veneer may help this finisher avoid the "barber-pole" effect caused by different orientations of light and viewpoint. January 9, 2007

We are currently finishing a project using quarter sawn maple frame and panel cabinets. The maple veneers are bookmatched, which gives a barber pole effect when a dark stain is applied. What is the best approach to eliminating or masking this tendency? The light and dark stripes change places when viewed at different angles, making the problem more aggravating.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Can you change over to rotary cut veneers? Book matched veneers will do that even with a clear coat; it's just the way the light bounces off the surface. Even if you were to darken the lighter of the two leafs to match the leaf next to it, it would still change colors on you when viewed from a different angle. Another option is to just paint it a complimentary color.

From contributor M:
Start with a lighter stain color and then glaze and shade to even out the color. Also, if the veneer flitch is very small, like 3" wide, it may always look bad. High quality veneer comes in wider widths, which helps eliminate the barber pole look. Rotary sawn veneer is best used in rough construction.

From contributor D:
For future jobs, use slipmatched instead of bookmatched.

From the original questioner:
The replies here have me wondering if I am using the wrong material. For my work I am using the rotary cut veneer. It has the most consistent color and the highest quality standards. The A1 maple veneer core I am using has more defects on the plain-sliced side than on the rotary sliced side, and the color varies much more too. Is there material out there that is made otherwise?

From contributor P:
It's a matter of personal preference, but traditionalists would say that rotary cut looks unnatural because it often switches from flat to rift to quartersawn all in the same piece of veneer because of the way it's cut from the log. Rotary cut is the most recently developed way to slice veneer. It was developed more for its high yield than its beauty. Like all wood, ply or solid, every piece is different, so depending on how you cut up a sheet, it can end up looking no different from any other cut. It does have at least one advantage, though. It's great for paint grade, because it has no seams to telegraph through your finish.

From contributor D:
If you like the rotary cut, then why don't you get it on both sides? You can get your ply many different ways. You should ask your supplier. You probably have an A1 face and a B or lower back. There are even higher grades than A1.

From contributor G:
I've seen a few places that use rotary cut birch plywood and finish and sell it as maple.