To understand wood veneers one need to first understand plywood.
Plywood is thin layers of wood (peeled from the tree – varying between 0.6 milimeter to 4 milimeter thick) glued together with phenol resin based adhesive and hot pressed to form a single ply (sheet). Each thin layer of wood is referred to as “cores” or “ply” or “veneer” or “core veneer” or “face veneer”.
In plywood construction we have two types of veneers i.e. core veneer and face veneer. Core veneers are the ones which are used in the inner part of plywood construction and face veneers are the ones used as the final top layer on the plywood.
At times this mixed nomenclature may become confusing for the end customer as ply is also used in short for plywood and veneer is used in short for decorative plywood e.g. teak veneer which is decorative plywood i.e. plywood with decorative teak “face veneer”. Traditionally plywood is made in a size of “8 feet x 4 feet” in varying thicknesses starting from 3mm and going up to 25mm. Customized plywood can also be made up to 75mm thickness in specialised factories.
Plywood was made to substitute wood as it has higher tensile strength compared to a single slab of raw wood, lasts longer, more durable, and highly resistant to the elements. For all these reasons and because it can be made from plantation timbers, it is also an ecological and economical option.
Real wood furniture or carpentry would be costlier, in plywood only a 0.5 – 0.7 mm thick layer on the top is sufficient to impart grace and beauty to the creation. Similarly raw wood furniture would consume a significant amount of more decorative wood than is necessitated.
Wood veneers is also plywood, difference as mentioned above is the top layer (face veneer), wood used is that of decorative nature i.e. good looking grains from exotic tree species like White Ash, White Oak, Red Oak, Walnut, Hard Maple, Cherry, Mahogany, Ebony, Bocote, Zericote, Sycamore, Rosewood, Teak etc. These are used to impart beauty to all interior work. By cutting thin slices of wood and arranging them on pre-constructed plywood, we are able to achieve a greater amount of decorative surfaces without compromising on the look and feel of the interior work, also decreasing the cost of the project and cost to the environment.
Today using only wood is not only expensive but also not environment friendly this is where veneers come into play. We are able to get the beauty of exotic woods and superior strength of plywood by using wood veneers. It serves as a balance point where one can even use wood veneers of expensive wood at a nominal cost.
Wood veneer manufacturing process comprises of two areas of expertise
1. Decorative plywood manufacturing process – Expertise required to produce good quality plywood i.e. resistant to water, termites & borer; should be blemish free & have full thickness as specified.
2. Slicing process – Expertise required to judge the apt cutting/slicing process to be used to get the most beautiful grain out of the particular tree.
1. Decorative plywood/wood veneers (traditionally 4mm thick) manufacturing process shown below
2. Slicing Process:
Timber veneer is real timber, sliced very finely. It is not made from man made fibre therefore is a renewable and sustainable resource. It has been used since the time of the pyramids, and the timeless beauty of antique furniture attests to the lasting quality of veneering art. Its surface coverage is approximately forty times more than 25mm timber and consequently is the most economical way of utilizing precious wood.
Decorative Veneer is produced by slicing or peeling selected logs to an approximate thickness of .6mm.
Rotary cut veneers are generally used in plywood manufacturing and give the species a very broad/planed appearance.
There are two methods of slicing Decorative Veneers, the difference being the way the flitch is placed in the slicer.
Quarter Cut – The timber is sliced at right angles to the growth rings and the result is a straight line pattern.
Crown Cut – The timber is sliced parallel to the growth rings. The result is a crown or “cathedral” figure, usually with a straight grain pattern on either side of the feature
Once sliced and dried, veneer leaves are trimmed or parallel clipped using a guillotine and then joined into a useable sheet size called layon. Layers are bonded in a hot press to a plantation–grown substrate of MDF, particleboard, plywood or solid core block-board, flush doors etc.
Typical Veneer Grains:
Application of wood veneers: