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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


Business Cards Made From Wood - So Yesterday, Or Is It?


It was old hat. Yet the members of the online forum literally fell all over themselves oohing and aahing about business cards made from wood—REAL wood as the posting member proudly proclaimed.

Seriously? This is so yesterday. Or is it?

What might be old news to you and me could be a revelation to your clients. And in the case of wooden substrates, things have changed.

So sit up and listen...
My first printed wood veneer samples date back to 2006—large, beautifully silk-screened and offset-printed posters in cherry and white birch. What a tactile experience! And yes, they’re still in my private collection.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen our share of wood veneer business cards, but the veneer and printing industries have evolved.

Now, said wood veneer is available in a multitude of colors—from Cherry to Red Cedar. Rolls or sheets—you can print offset and (here’s where it gets really interesting) digital. Yes my friends—Indigo, iGen, Nexpress can print wood veneer—depending on the maximum caliper the particular press allows.

Slice it, dice it anyway you want it
But let’s back up for a second and look at the amazing way these substrates are created. And believe me, this is worth a sales call to a potential customer all by itself.

The most common ways these veneers are sliced are:

  • Rotary—The veneer is peeled off the tree trunk (think unrolling a roll of paper towels) with a rotary cutter that peels the veneer to a .007˝ thickness (or better said, thinness). As this method rotates around the grain of the tree, no two sheets will look alike. Rotary cutting is the only way to achieve a 48˝ wide whole-piece face.
  • Plain—A log is literally sliced into super-thin sheets. This method produces thin veneers that are no wider than the log and have a pronounced repeating grain pattern.
  • Quarter Cut—The log is cut into quarters before slicing the veneer. The knife slices through the quartered log at approximately a right angle to the growth rings. The resulting grain pattern is typically straighter in most species.

All by itself, the veneer sheet would be too thin and sensitive to run through any press. The manufacturers I spoke to back the veneer with fleece or a paperboard or another layer of veneer, bringing the total thickness of the sheet to .010˝ and up to .020˝.

Is wood veneer an inexpensive option? Of course not. This is, after all, a specialty substrate.

But, no matter which way you slice it, think of the possibilities to impress your customers and help them create truly outstanding and memorable pieces.

Go beyond business cards (even though they are nice). Think: invitations, book covers, envelopes, postcards, presentation folders...all providing the unique, tactical experience of real wood.

P.S. I know, I know. Before you ask, I have found two vendors that supply wood veneer for printing purposes.

Lenderink Technologies manufactures using the various veneer methods listed above.

Graphic Wood Technologies offers "Sheer Veneer" products, which are manufactured with the rotary cutting method.

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