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.
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