In woodworking, veneer refers to thin slices of wood, usually thinner than 3 mm (1/8 inch), that typically are glued onto core panels (typically, wood, particle board or medium-density fiberboard) to produce flat panels such as doors, tops and panels for cabinets, parquet floors and parts of furniture.
They are also used in marquetry. Plywood consists of three or more layers of veneer, each glued with its grain at right angles to adjacent layers for strength.
In this post we'll cover:
- Discovering the Wonders of Wood Veneer
- Exploring the Different Types of Wood Veneers
- The Intricate Process of Creating Wood Veneer
- The Many Uses of Wood Veneer
- Putting It All Together: Applying Wood Veneer
- What to Consider When Choosing Wood Veneer
Discovering the Wonders of Wood Veneer
Wood veneer refers to thin slices of real wood that are sliced from a log or a piece of solid wood. This traditional material is typically thinner than 3mm and is glued onto core panels to produce flat panels such as doors, tops, and panels for cabinets, parquet floors, and parts of furniture. They are also used in marquetry, musical instrument construction, and art-focused work.
Types of Wood Veneers
Wood veneers come in a variety of types, each with unique characteristics that shoppers can choose from. Some of the most commonly found types of veneers include:
- Low veneers: These are produced by sawing or slicing the log at an angle, producing a thick and heavy piece of veneer that retains the authentic pattern and feel of the wood.
- High veneers: These are produced by slicing the log parallel to the grain, producing a thin and lighter piece of veneer that offers a great contrast and variety in designs.
- Standard veneers: These are typically produced by sawing the log into layers and then slicing them into thin pieces, making it easier to achieve a consistent thickness and colour.
Advantages of Using Wood Veneer
Wood veneer offers a variety of advantages that make it a popular choice for building and construction. Some of these advantages include:
- Unique and personal expression: Wood veneer allows for a personal touch and unique expression in designs.
- Versatile material: Wood veneer can be used in a variety of ways, from complete panels to small pieces for highlighting.
- Optimal use of rare and expensive woods: By attaching thin slices of expensive and rare woods onto a core panel, wood veneer allows for the optimal use of these materials.
- Easier to work with: Wood veneer is typically easier to work with than solid wood, making it a popular choice for custom and intricate designs.
- Offers a genuine and authentic feel: Wood veneer retains the feel and texture of real wood, giving a genuine and authentic finish to any product.
The Process of Making Wood Veneer
The process of making wood veneer involves slicing thin pieces of wood from a log or solid piece of wood. This slicing process can be done in a variety of ways, including sawing, slicing, or rotary cutting. Once the veneer is produced, it is glued onto a core panel to produce a flat panel that can be used in a variety of ways.
Important Notes for Shoppers
When shopping for wood veneer, it is important to note the following:
- Different types of veneers offer different characteristics and advantages.
- Wood veneer can be difficult to work with and may cause problems if not attached properly.
- The finish of wood veneer can vary depending on the slicing process used.
- Wood veneer is available in a variety of colours, thicknesses, and finishes, allowing for a custom look and feel.
- Wood veneer is a great way to incorporate the beauty of real wood into any design or product.
Exploring the Different Types of Wood Veneers
The process of slicing wood veneers is typically done in one of two ways:
- Rotary Cutting: This method involves mounting a log onto a lathe and then slicing it into thin sheets as it rotates. This method is quick and efficient, but the resulting veneers are typically thinner and may have a slightly different grain pattern.
- Flat Cutting: This method involves cutting a block of wood into thin sheets by slicing it parallel to the growth rings. This method is slower and requires more effort, but the resulting veneers are typically thicker and have a more consistent grain pattern.
Once the veneers have been sliced, they are typically attached to a core material using glue. The core material can be made of a variety of different materials, including plywood, MDF, and particle board. The veneers are then sanded and finished to create a smooth surface.
The Ultimate Versatile Material
Wood veneers are an extremely versatile material that can be utilized in a variety of different ways. They are able to effectively mimic the look of solid wood while being much cheaper and easier to work with. Whether you are looking to create a heavy, solid piece of furniture or simply add some additional structure to a smaller item, wood veneers are a good choice.
The Intricate Process of Creating Wood Veneer
To produce wood veneer, the trunk of a tree is first debarked and brought to a uniform moisture level. This is achieved through soaking or steaming the trunk to prevent the wood from tearing and softening it. Once the wood is ready, the manufacturer can begin the process of producing veneer. The process depends on the type of wood being used and the particular type of veneer being produced. However, the main steps involved in creating wood veneer include:
- Slicing or peeling: The wood is sliced or peeled into thin pieces, usually around 1/32 of an inch in thickness. This can be done using a sharp blade or a lathe, depending on the type of veneer being produced.
- Cutting into rectangular blocks: The thin slices are then cut into rectangular blocks, which are easier to handle and transport.
- Placing the blocks on a large blade: The blocks are then placed on a large blade, which slices them into thin sheets of veneer.
- Backing the veneer: The veneer is then backed with a thin layer of paper or fabric to add stability and prevent it from cracking or splitting.
- Gluing the layers: The veneer sheets can be glued together to create larger, decorative pieces. This is commonly done to create veneer sheets that are larger than the original tree trunk.
Finishes and Applications
Wood veneer is sold in sheets or blocks and is commonly used in furniture making, cabinetry, and decorative paneling. The veneer can be applied to solid wood or other substrates to create a decorative finish. Wood veneer is available in a variety of finishes, including:
- Natural: This finish allows the natural grain and color of the wood to appear.
- Stained (here’s how you apply it): This finish involves adding a stain to the veneer to change its color.
- Painted: This finish involves painting the veneer to create a solid color.
It’s important to note that wood veneer can be difficult and expensive to produce, which is why it is often used as a decorative element rather than a primary building material. However, it is a popular way to add the look and feel of solid wood to a project without the added weight and cost.
The Many Uses of Wood Veneer
Wood veneer is a versatile material that can be used in a variety of ways. It is a thin layer of wood that is sliced from a larger piece of wood, making it an excellent alternative to traditional solid wood. Here are some of the many uses of wood veneer:
- Adding wood veneer elements to any space can vastly improve the aesthetics and elevate the design, which is why so many woodworkers and designers are choosing wood veneer over solid wood.
- Wood veneer can be used to create custom furniture pieces, musical instruments, and even building components.
- Wood veneer is commonly used in cabinetry and furniture within the household, but it can also be found in larger architectural projects such as wall panels and doors.
- Wood veneer can be matched to create a unique sequence of grain and color, allowing for a completely custom look.
- Wood veneer can be classified into different types based on the way it is sliced, which can influence the size and grain pattern of the pieces.
- The versatility of wood veneer allows it to be used as a decorative or practical material, as it can be applied to both structural and interior components.
Applying Wood Veneer Correctly
While wood veneer is a great material to work with, it does require careful thought and attention to detail when applying it. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- The substrate that the veneer is applied to must be completely smooth and free of any bumps or imperfections.
- The correct glue must be used to ensure that the veneer adheres smoothly and stays in place for a long time.
- The sequence of the veneer faces must be carefully matched to create a smoother and bigger area.
- The process of applying wood veneer involves using a press to ensure that the veneer is applied evenly and smoothly.
The Best Types of Wood Veneer to Choose
When choosing the best type of wood veneer for your project, there are a number of factors to consider:
- Hardwood veneers are generally of higher quality than softwood veneers, and they tend to have a more attractive grain pattern.
- The type of wood veneer you choose will depend on the specific needs of your project, as some types of veneers may require more thought and components than others.
- The quality of the veneer is important, as a higher quality veneer will have a more consistent color and grain pattern.
- The size of the veneer pieces will also influence the final look of the project, as larger pieces will create a smoother and more uniform appearance.
The Versatility of Wood Veneer in Musical Instrument Construction
Wood veneer is a popular material in the construction of musical instruments. Here are some of the ways that wood veneer is used in this context:
- Wood veneer can be used to create unique and visually stunning instrument designs.
- The natural qualities of wood veneer make it an excellent material for creating the warm and rich tones that are characteristic of many musical instruments.
- Wood veneer can be used to create custom inlays and other decorative elements on instruments.
- The versatility of wood veneer allows it to be used in a large number of different musical instrument types, from guitars to pianos to drums.
Putting It All Together: Applying Wood Veneer
Applying wood veneer is a delicate and precise process that requires great attention to detail. The process is called veneering and involves attaching thin pieces of wood material to a larger solid material. Here’s how it’s done:
- The edges of the solid material are cleaned and smoothed to ensure a clean surface for the veneer to be applied.
- The face of the solid material is covered with glue or adhesive.
- The veneer is then carefully placed on top of the glue-covered surface, ensuring that it is aligned correctly.
- The veneer is then attached to the solid material using a tool called a veneer hammer or press.
- The final product is a complete piece of woodwork that appears to be made of a single piece of wood.
The Types of Veneer Cuts
Veneers come in a variety of cuts, each with its own unique grain structure and appearance. The most common types of veneer cuts include:
- Plain Sliced: This is the most common type of veneer cut and produces a clean and smooth grain pattern.
- Quarter Sliced: This cut produces a close and straight grain pattern, making it ideal for musical instrument construction.
- Rift Sliced: This cut produces a unique and delicate grain pattern that is often found in high-end furniture and building construction.
- Rotary Cut: This cut produces a wide range of grain patterns and is commonly found in lower-end products.
The Versatility of Veneer
Wood veneer is a highly versatile material that can be used in a wide range of applications. Some common uses include:
- Furniture construction
- Building construction
- Musical instrument construction
- Finish work
Important Notes on Veneer
When looking for wood veneer, it’s important to note that:
- Higher quality veneers are usually more expensive.
- Users may prefer a particular type of cut or grain pattern.
- Veneer can be found in a variety of materials, including traditional wood species and non-wood materials.
- Custom veneer production is available for those looking for a specific type of veneer.
What to Consider When Choosing Wood Veneer
When choosing wood veneer, it’s important to consider the quality and type of wood. The natural grain and colour of the wood can greatly affect the final product. Different types of wood produce different results, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. Some common types of wood veneer include red and white oak, maple, cherry, and walnut.
Thickness and Cutting Methods
The thickness of the veneer is also an important factor to consider. Thin veneers are lightweight and fairly easy to work with, but may require an expert finish to protect the surface. Thicker veneers, on the other hand, may require more complex cutting methods to produce the desired result. Traditional cutting methods include slicing and sawing, while newer methods involve bonding thin sheets of wood together to create a solid product.
Matching and Arrangement
When using wood veneer, it’s important to consider how the pieces will be arranged and matched. The grain and colour of the wood should be arranged in a regular pattern to create a cohesive look. It’s also important to consider the size of the veneer sheets and how they will be arranged on the surface. A good rule of thumb is to use larger sheets for larger surfaces and smaller sheets for smaller surfaces.
Finish and Reputation of the Supplier
The final finish of the wood veneer is also an important consideration. Some veneers come pre-finished, while others require a finish to be applied. It’s important to choose a supplier with a good reputation for delivering high-quality products. Western Red Cedar is a popular choice for wood veneer due to its fine grain and natural colour.
Cost and Availability
Wood veneer can be expensive, so it’s important to consider the cost when choosing a product. Bonded veneers are usually less expensive than solid wood veneers, but may not have the same quality or durability. It’s also important to consider the availability of the product. Some types of wood veneer may be harder to find than others, so it’s important to ask your supplier what products are available and suitable for your needs.
If you’re not sure what type of wood veneer to choose, it’s always handy to turn to an expert for advice. A reputable supplier can help you build the perfect product for your needs and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision. Remember, choosing the right wood veneer is important for the overall look and sound of your project, so take the time to follow these tips and choose wisely.
So, that’s what a wood veneer is- a thin slice of real wood that’s used to make furniture and other things.
It’s a great way to add some personal style to your space with a unique look and feel of real wood without the expense of using solid wood. So, don’t be afraid to explore the many options wood veneers have to offer.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.