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Ever wondered what a timber veneer is and why it is widely used, why not just use solidwood?

July 2, 2019

This question is regularly debated, after working in joinery for nearly 20 Years predominantly building interiors for Luxury Yachts. It is important for me to point out that I do not favour veneer over solidwood or vice versa, they are both beautiful natural products and both have their place…

In the context of Bespoke Internal Doors they are subjected to differing amounts of humidity depending on the time of year or even in bathrooms for example, and massive changes in temperature between summer / winter not to mention if you run your heating at 16C at night and 21C during the day!!

People underestimate the challenge this presents manufacturers to be able to produce a high quality Door which in not only beautiful but stable. For this reason we use Veneers. We can balance the panels to ensure that each side has an equal ‘pull’ as it is the same material which is the same thickness resulting in a door which is less likely to warp, bow or twist.

(I am not going to attempt to explain the characteristics of wood and how it behaves in different ways depending on how it is machined…that will be for another day.)

Veneer (previously known as fineer) has been used since the early 18th Century as a way of making furniture and other wooden products more decorative.

There are so many interesting and fun ways to machine timber to produce interesting architectural veneers that we use in our Doors, Wall Cladding, Stairs and Floors.

Ways of Slicing Veneer

Whilst the techniques for slicing and stitching these veneers has changed over the years as technology has improved the principle remains the same.

You take a log whether it be Constructional or Decorative and you slice it to give a veneer that can be pressed, wrapped and formed into a multitude of products and finishes. The beauty of veneer is it’s ability to create different architectural looks just by cutting it differently…

Let me explain…there are 4 main ways of cutting veneer

Quarter Sawn – A very straight grained look, the log is cut at 90 degree angles to the growth rings.

Crown Cut – A decorative figure (Crown), The log is sliced in half and then the veneer is cut parallel to the centre  

Rotary Cut – Gives a very wild inconsistent veneer – The veneer is effectively peeled from the log by spinning on its axis to produce a continuous sheet.

Burrs – Are a very decorative veneer and are expensive as they are taken from a root or the outside of a tree and therefore there is a limited amount taken from each tree. 

Joining Techniques

Book Matched – Any veneerer worth their salt book matches as standard. The veneer is opened like the name suggests “like a book” meaning that each strip is a reflection of previous one. This attention to detail gives a beautiful finish.

Mirror Matched – Is used where you are creating very tall panels, in addition to book matching the veneer is mirrored to give a continuous pattern

Slip Matched – I rarely use this jointing technique as it does not look as nice as book matching but does have very little variation across the board when staining.

Reverse Slip Matched – This technique is as above but each strip of veneer is glued in the opposite direction meaning that the board can be used in any direction.

Making the most of the log

It is so important not to waste the precious commodity wood and therefore all parts of the log are used. As you can imagine logs have defects and sapwood, this is known as a B or C grade veneer and is used to balance the face veneer or anywhere that will not be seen 

To summarise in our business producing luxury Internal Doors, Wall Cladding, Stairs and engineered wood flooring we use more veneer over solidwood as it is more stable and therefore gives a better quality product. It also gives far more flexibility as it can be tinted, cut in many ways and personalised to all of our customers. 

Of course we use solidwood in all of our products in one shape of form but please do not be naïve and associate beautiful decorative veneered products as being sub-standard, reserved for cheap flat pack furniture in fact quite the contrary.

Thanks for reading…I hope that you found it informative.

Edward Rhys-Hurn is the editor of this blog and owner or Zakuna Ltd (www.zakuna.co.uk), supplier of Bespoke Internal doors, Staircases, Engineered wood Flooring and Timber Windows and Doors.

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