Wood Veneers

Wood Veneers

Wood Veneers

Jan 11, 2017

Here at Allwoods we give advise about the right type of machinery to use in your woodworking business.  We also provide quality machinery or can make a bespoke machine that does exactly what you need it to do.

We have many machines that work with the different stages of wood veneers, so please do not hesitate contacting us for any information you may need.

For those of you just starting to consider working with wood veneers, here is a bit of information about how veneers are made and the machine types that cut them.  This information can also be found over at Wikipedia:

Wood Veneers

Veneer refers to the thin slices of wood that is glued onto panels, such as wood, particle board, or medium-density fibre board.  Veneers are usually thinner than 3mm in thickness and give great finishes to doors, tops, panels for cabinets, parquet floors and parts of furniture. 

Plywood consists of layers of veneer, each glued with its grain at right angles to adjacent layers for strength. 

Veneer beading is a thin layer of decorative edging placed around objects, such as jewellery boxes. 

Veneer is also a type of manufactured board.

The trunk of a tree is either peeled, or large rectangular blocks of wood are sliced to create veneers.  The appearance of the grain comes from slicing through the growth rings of the tree and depends upon the angle at which the wood is sliced.

The three main types of veneer-making equipment used commercially:

A rotary lathe - the wood is turned against a sharp blade and peeled off in one continuous or semi-continuous roll.  Rotary-cut veneer is mainly used for plywood, as the appearance is not desirable because the veneer is cut concentric to the growth rings.

A slicing machine - the log is raised and lowered against the blade and slices of the log are made.  This yields veneer that looks like sawn pieces of wood, cut across the growth rings; such veneer is referred to as 'crown cut'.

A half round lathe - the log can be turned and moved in such a way as to expose the most interesting parts of the grain, creating a more textured feel and appearance: such veneer is commonly referred to as 'rift cut'.

Depending on the tree species, each slicing process mentioned above gives its own very distinctive type of grain effect.

Producing wood veneers

The finest and rarest logs are sent to companies that produce veneer.  The finest logs provide the woodworker with more usable wood per tree.  Veneers are cut as thin as 0.6mm, and very little wood is wasted.  The slices of veneer are always kept in the order in which they were cut from the log and are often sold this way.

Types of veneers

There are a number of veneers available, each serving a particular purpose.

Raw veneer has no backing on it and can be used with either side facing up.  It is important to note that the two sides will appear different when a finish has been applied.

Paper backed veneer is backed with paper.  The advantage of having it backed in paper is it can be supplied in larger sheets.  The joining together of smaller peaces prior to adding the backing gives it greater strength, allowing the manufacturer to supply it in these larger sheets.  This is helpful for users that do not wish to join smaller pieces of raw veneers together.  This is also helpful when veneering curves and columns as the veneer is less likely to crack.

Phenolic backed veneer is less common and is used for composite, or manmade wood veneers.  It is becoming more popular as people become more concerned about protecting forests.  It too has the advantage of being available in sheets, and is also less likely to crack when being used on curves.

Lain up veneer is raw veneer that has been joined together to make larger pieces.  The process is time-consuming and requires great care, but is not difficult and requires no expensive tools or machinery.  Veneers can be ordered through some companies already laid up to any size, shape or design.

Reconstitute veneer is made from fast-growing tropical species.  Raw veneer is cut from a log, and dyed if necessary.  Once dyed, the sheets are laminated together to form a block.  The block is then sliced so that the edges of the laminated veneer become the "grain" of the reconstituted veneer.

Wood on wood also called 2-ply is a decorative wood veneer face with a utility grade wood backer applied at an opposing direction to the face veneer.

Advantages of using veneers

Compared to wood, one of the primary advantages of using veneer is stability.  While solid wood can be prone to warping and splitting, veneer is made of thin layers of wood glued together, which reduces the chances of splitting or cracking.  Further, the glue used provides additional strength, making the end result stronger than natural wood.

Some projects built using wood veneer would not be possible to construct using solid lumber, owing to expansion and contraction caused by fluctuation of temperature and humidity.  Another advantage of veneer is sustainability - furniture made with wood veneer uses less wood than the same piece of furniture made with solid wood.  Further, veneer may also be more readily available than solid wood as exotic hardwood lumber can be scarce and very expensive.

Buying Veneers

Wood veneers are typically sold by the square foot.  With the ability to join veneers, even small pieces are usable, resulting in very little waste.  Many sources sell small packets of veneers that are sequence matched and are ideal for small projects.  These make experimenting and practising working with veneers much more economical.  It is also possible to buy plywood and other substrates with veneered faces for larger projects consisting of casework.