How Wood Cuts Influence the Look of a Door

When specifying architectural wood doors, the options for customization are almost endless. Different wood cuts, for example, can change the look and style of a door. By adjusting the cut, along with the veneer species and stain, and other choices, you can tailor wood doors to meet a unique look and feel for a project. Review the different wood cut options to understand what will work best to create the look you want in your next project.

Wood Cuts for Interior Wood Doors

Wood makes a beautiful building material because it comes from a living thing, each tree a unique individual. It’s also incredibly versatile, able to be crafted into a work of art or a practical object—or a combination of both, as with an architectural door.

Skilled woodworking involves understanding the natural tendency of a particular species while applying a creative vision for how it can look.

The method for cutting wood determines the grain pattern and consistency in the final product.

Rotary cut veneer for broad pattern door.

Types of Wood Cuts for Architectural Doors

For most species, you can specify plain or flat sliced, rotary cut, or quarter cut. When you specify red or white oak veneers, rift cut and comb grain cuts are become options. Choose the cut for your wood veneer doors that best suits your overall design style and budget.

Rotary Cut

In a rotary cut, the blade spirals inward through the surface of the tree, producing wide sheets of wood that “unroll” from the log. This method produces the least waste, making it environmentally friendly and economical. Wood resulting from a rotary cut displays broad patterns and wide leaves. Its random, non-repetitive grain pattern makes it difficult to match but entirely unique.

Plain Sliced or Flat Cut

Another highly affordable cut for commercial doors, plain slicing produces straighter grains and a more uniform look. Plain sliced veneer may also be called flat cut and it’s the most popular cutting method that our clients request. Each piece of wood yields more slices when cutting straight across than with some, more complicated cuts. Flat cut wood may display a cathedral pattern, comprising rows of arch-shaped markings that run the length of the wood.

Quarter Cut

To create quarter cut wood veneers, a log is first cut into quarters. Then layers are cut from each quarter. Quarter cut veneer produces a tight vertical grain, which tends to produce a uniform look that many clients like. It eliminates arches or cathedral looks that can occur with plain sliced veneer. When cut with this method, oak species tend to show a “flake effect,” or shiny appearance.

Rift Cut

With its open grain texture, red or white oak holds stain well, although the grains of white oak tend to be longer. It also contains medullary rays, a natural occurrence of vein-like structures radiating across the tree’s rings. These structures cause the “flake effect,” giving the wood a reflective look. It will be especially visible if an oak wood veneer door is in a location where it gets direct sunlight.

A rift cut, made at 15 degrees to the radial, reduces the “flake effect” that a quarter cut produces in oak. This angle accentuates the vertical grain. The difference is subtle, and oak can also be cut in a combination of rift and quarter cuts.

Library seen through glass of interior wooden door.

Comb Grain

Like the rift cut, its variation called a comb grain, is also available only in oak. The comb grain is the portion of rift cut slices with the tightest and straightest grain, giving the appearance of an almost solid color. Because this wood cutting method yields a small amount of product, costs are high compared with other cuts.

Barber Pole Effect

Another wood veneer option you might encounter is the “barber pole effect.” To create this effect, the manufacturer alternates the veneer leaves between the inner and outer side of the grain. A stain accentuates the difference between the two. The barber pole effect creates a striking look that is not to everyone’s taste. It has less to do with the cut itself and more to do with how the pieces are assembled.

The Effects of Flitch Type on Wood Cuts

A term you might encounter when exploring wood cuts is flitch. Because logs are cylindrical and veneers are flat, a log must be shaped before it can be cut for veneers. The flitch is the section of the log cut away to expose the surface from which the veneer will be sliced. The flitch size varies, but the cutting method will determine the minimum width. A smaller flitch leaves more of the log to slice into veneer.

Wood Cuts from Heartwood vs. Sapwood

A tree grows from the inside out, and the wood nearest the center is called the heartwood. Heartwood is darker in color than the wood surrounding it, the sapwood.

Depending on the wood cut, a particular veneer may include wood from both the heartwood and sapwood of the same log, resulting in color variation. If you want to stick with only the heartwood, you can specify this as “red,” or for only sapwood, specify “white.”

Factory Staining Commercial Wood Doors

Factory-applied stain allows you to fine-tune your color results while adding a layer of protection to a wood door. Factory application helps ensure color consistency across a project. However, it’s wise to understand how the cut of the veneer wood affects stain results. For example, flat cut or plain sliced wood tends not to receive stain as well as other cuts. While Masonite Architectural offers 13 designer stain finishes, each finish produces different results according to wood species and cut, so talk with a distributor to determine the needs for your project.

Whatever you can envision for architectural doors, Masonite Architectural can help you formulate the right match. With a wide range of wood door styles, veneers, paint and stain, and additional customizations, you will discover the perfect look for an office, hotel, restaurant, or any other incredible new space.