Wood Veneer Demystified

Wood Veneer Demystified

Johnny Williams
Aug 24, 2009

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My name is Johnny and I'm a recovering solid-wood snob. I once considered veneered furniture to be innately inferior — lacking in density, durability and soul. But witnessing the fine craft of veneering firsthand has turned this snob into a true believer.

Veneer is typically defined as a sheet of wood less than 1/8'' thick. Woodworkers either buy commercially cut veneer or "resaw" their own slices to desired thickness using a bandsaw. Since these thin veneers expand and contract significantly less than thicker boards, it's best to glue them to an unmoving engineered wood like plywood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). Were you to veneer atop solid wood, disparities in movement would eventually cause the veneer to loosen or even split apart.

Many woodworkers treat veneering as an artistic craft, reassembling the wood in stunning geometric patterns. My teacher, Adrian Ferrazzutti, whose brilliant box is pictured above, is one such pattern maker. Below are the most common ways to arrange, or "match" patterns from a stack of veneer:

Book matching - veneer is presented like the open pages of a book
Slip matching - veneer is presented as if fanned out like a deck of cards
Diamond matching - veneer is assembled in a diamond shape
Radial matching - veneer is assembled like slices of a pie

But to me, the most appealing aspect of veneer is its variety. Online dealers like Certainly Wood offer furniture makers a vast palette of exotic wood species generally hard to come by in board form. And with whimsical names like wenge, cocobolo and bubinga, you're bound to put that solid-wood snobbery behind you too.

(Images: 1 Johnny Williams, 2 Johnny Williams)

Johnny is currently blogging his experience as a student at Maine's Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. You can keep track of his projects on his blog, Woodlearner.

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