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Tip Tuesday #1: Buy “Solid” wood

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Blog entry by Chris Davis posted 11-09-2010 03:30 PM 2171 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Some associate veneers as being low quality and if you truly want quality go all solid. Really the opposite could be true. Veneers got a bad rap around the 60’s when cheap furniture was introduced into the market. There was delaminating, which is the lifting of the veneer, because of a bad process and gules.

What is veneer?
Veneer is a thinly sliced piece of wood glued onto a substrate or a another, usually manufactured, wood like MDF or plywood. With today’s technology these slices can be as thin as 1/64th of an inch.

Isn’t solid wood better?
It all depends. Each has its benefits and bad points. Solid wood contains mosture and will expand and contract with changes in the humidity and seasons. For this reason, usually we don’t use lumber over about 6” wide. If we do we may have cracking and warping. We will glue them up into larger panels alternating the grain to lessen the effect. Even though the seam is so tight and sanded you can‘t tell where it is, but the grain pattern doesn’t flow smoothly and continuously from one board to the other. This is where veneers are better. They can be glued on a stable substrate. This will keep the wood movement down to a minimum and less likely to warp, crack, or cup. Also the grain usually appears to be continuous. The veneer is either rolled off the log to produce one continuous piece (rotary cut) and another lay-up technique that make it appear as one piece. Another one is book matching. They will slice the veneer and open them up like a book. This produces mirror images of each other.

What about the delaminating (veneer coming off)?
Most of the time that is not a problem. With the better glues and processes you rarely find this problem. Most veneer that furniture builders buy sheets that are already connected to a substrate in the form of 4×8 sheets of plywood. The are pressed on at 2800 lbs per square inch. I have had some import plywood come in that has delaminated. I now only buy domestic.

More benefits to veneer:
Slicing so thin you can get lots of sheet of veneer from a single tree, thus yielding a lot more then with solid. The substrate can be made from parts that were normally discarded or of a faster growing tree. This is better for our environment and supplies for the future.

You can use an exotic woods in the designs and not break the bank. I built a table with Waterfall Bubinga that I wouldn’t be about to do without a veneer (price). Also curving wood. Veneer is the best for that too. My wood boat bed has a curved front which couldn’t be done easily with solid lumber.

Veneers are everywhere. Most likely all if not most of your furniture contains veneers. Some of the most expensive furniture I’ve seen has been MDF with a veneer. MDF is a manmade material made from resin and wood particles. It is different than the true particle board which I would stay away from. MDF can be shaped, routered and is a very smooth surface to veneer on or to paint.

Waterfall Bubinga Veneer


A table base in Walnut, MDF substrate and Bubinga sample.

For missed video and building pictures see my Current Projects link at wwbeds.com or poggyskids.com.

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10 comments so far

View nailbanger2's profile

nailbanger2

969 posts in 1894 days


#1 posted 11-09-2010 05:45 PM

Thanks for a great explanation of the differences between solid wood and veneers, Chris. One of the things that separates the two is the ability to laminate in your shop. This is not possible in some (like my own), and limits our (my) ability to use veneers. Oh well, something else to dream about!

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

5313 posts in 1549 days


#2 posted 11-09-2010 06:03 PM

You don’t need major clamping jigs or veneer presses or even clamps to laminate veneers. If you have a compressor you can make a vacuum press for a few hundred bucks, .... and it will match or outperform the big veneer presses.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View Chris Davis's profile

Chris Davis

1302 posts in 2733 days


#3 posted 11-09-2010 06:10 PM

Good point Paul.

-- Watch live video from our shop. http://wwbeds.com/live.htm

View JJohnston's profile

JJohnston

1602 posts in 2042 days


#4 posted 11-09-2010 06:23 PM

Can you explain how to use a compressor with a vacuum bag , Shipwright? I’m guessing you hook it into the intake side.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Chris Davis's profile

Chris Davis

1302 posts in 2733 days


#5 posted 11-09-2010 06:33 PM

I think he is talking about a vacuum pump, which is a compressor where the lines are on the intake side. I don’t think you can use a standard compressor, but I could be wrong. Been wrong before. There may be a way to modify it or a contraption that uses a venturi to create suction.

-- Watch live video from our shop. http://wwbeds.com/live.htm

View interpim's profile

interpim

1133 posts in 2209 days


#6 posted 11-09-2010 07:04 PM

So considering some people can’t justify spending the $200 + on a vacuum bag kit, how would we go about doing veneer work. I know folks back in the 1600’s that did veneer work didn’t use vacuum bags, and some of that work still exists today with the veneer holding on strong as ever. What is the cheapest way to get veneer into your work without compromising the quality

-- San Diego, CA

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

5313 posts in 1549 days


#7 posted 11-09-2010 07:13 PM

The compressor based vacuum bag system works with any compressor on the pressure side by using a venturi block. Just like the way paint is drawn up from a conventional paint pot. Plans are available at joewoodworker.com. sorry, don’t have time to post the link right now. For photos of it in use, check my Oops! blog.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

5313 posts in 1549 days


#8 posted 11-09-2010 10:14 PM

Interpim, they used hide glue. It’s a little tricky, a little messy and an acquired talent but it’s pretty cool stuff. check this out: http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/woodworkingwithhideglue.aspx

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View gpeau's profile

gpeau

40 posts in 1664 days


#9 posted 11-11-2010 07:43 PM

Here are a few excellent videos from WoodTreks on veneering with hide glue. The second video shows the process, but all three are well done if you have the time.
http://woodtreks.com/category/techniques/veneering/

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

5313 posts in 1549 days


#10 posted 11-11-2010 08:26 PM

Great videos gpeau. I’ve heard about hide glues for a long time but now I’m definitely getting some. If you’ve seen my projects, you’ll know that I’m a veneer experimenter. This is a “must see / must do” for me. Thanks again.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

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