Embossed mouldings

A discussion of various elements in the manufacture of embossed moulding. June 14, 2000

Can anyone comment on the suitability of big-tooth aspen, soft maple and white birch for embossed and carved architectural mouldings and other interior parts like mantles, pilasters, corbels, etc.?

Can anyone confirm that a good portion of embossed and carved mouldings are produced from yellow poplar? How would the woods I named compare in the production of embossed and high-relief work?

Aspen will work, but would not be my first choice. Poplar is the best low-cost choice for paint or stain (if selected for color). Soft maple will work. Most of the hardwoods emboss very well. I have no experience embossing white birch.

Temperature has nothing to do with the depth of the profile, this is determined by the design of the die or wheel. Heat merely serves to set, or "case harden" the surface of the wood, keeping the fibers from expanding -- particularly when finish is applied. The light scorch left by the die also enhances the design by providig an even shadow along the design.

I know that aspen, birch and soft maple have all been quite widely used for embossing on furniture in Europe, using high-temp rollers and platens.

You may want to talk to a wood technologist about the methods used and control mechnanisms, since machinability and control of moisture content before pressing will be crucial to the success of embossing without splits/cracks.

Poplar is a very common wood for embossing. Many embossing companies run quite a variety of woods.

I have some cherry, soft maple, birch, and mahogony that has been embossed at a company I recently visited. The type of wheels and embossing machine, as well as the amount of detail in the profile, can limit the wood species that work the best.

The depth of the embossing profile, at least from my experience, is affected more by the temperature control on the embossing wheel than about anything else. The feed rate of the embossing machine must be set to allow the embossing wheel to maintain the proper temperature.

Dave Rankin, forum moderator