Wood Veneers: The Basics
Modern veneers are sliced from larger lumber
planks or half logs, using knives that move backwards and forwards.
They are piled consecutively as they come off the machinery. This
allows the manufacturer to lay up or sell the veneer in bookmatched
panels when requested. Wood veneers manufactured in this fashion
are typically referred to as "flat sliced veneers".
Some wood species, are peeled rather than sliced. The log is soaked
in a hot water bath and then mounted on "lathe" style
turning bed. A blade is brought up close to the log and peels off
layers of wood from around its circumference. Veneer of this sort
is commonly referred to as "rotary" cut.
Common Wood Veneer Thickness:
Pre 1800's, veneers typically were 1/4"
thick and cut with a hand saw. Today all veneer manufacturing is
mechanized, with the most common thicknesses as follows:.... 0.50mm
(1/50"), 0.55mm (1/46"), 0.60mm 1/42", 0.65mm 1/39", and 0.70mm
(1/36")... .. the maximum width is equal to the diameter of the
tree,or the width of the plank. Usually veneers are cut from logs
just over 8 feet long.
A Little History:
We tend to think that veneers evolved as a
means to create furniture for less money, when in reality it was
quite the opposite. Veneering was and still is a method of furniture
construction, that allows for very elaborate decoration. Thin layers
of bone, shell, and precious metals as well as wood have all been
used to create highly priced and highly prized pieces of work.
In many cases, veneers were the only possible way
to use certain kinds of wood. Burls, for instance, are too weak
to use as furniture components unless they consist of a stronger
wood as an undersupport. Some species of wood are so rare that you
would only find them as a veneer..... in fact today it is these
"exotic" species that are in demand.
You can commonly find burl, birdseye, curly, fiddleback
and crotch veneers.... each with its own species and unique figure....
as well as the common species that are used to laminate up 4' x
8' sheeting found at the lumber yard.... oak, maple,birch and cherry.
Always store your veneers horizontally, supported
by plywood across the full length. Cover with a second sheet of
plywood, or heavy cloth, to prevent colour change and moisture fluctuation.
Tape the ends of the sheet anywhere that it looks like a split is
starting: tape both down and across the crack for extra support.
The masking or veneer tape can easily be removed on gluing.
Flattening your veneer:
If you find that your veneer has buckled,
common with crotch or burl wood, use a commercially prepared "veneer
softner" and mist the surface. Lay up the veneer between brown
paper (not waxed), and gradually over a day or two add weight to
the top of the stack. Change the paper as needed to draw the glycerine
out of the wood as it drys and flattens. Let it remain under weight
for a further 24 hours. Store carefully until you are ready to use
it, or you may be starting all over again.