Wood selection is arguably the most fundamental of decisions for a cabinetmaker. When planning a new piece of furniture, colour, grain patterns, use and avoidance of pips and knots, sap and heartwood, and burrs must all be considered. These are just some of the more common aspects of the physical appearance of a piece of wood. And when choosing what to use where on a piece of furniture, they must not be forgotten.
Quite often part of the selection includes when and where to use veneers. At the most basic level veneers are essential in two key situations. Firstly, if the panel has to be absolutely stable, like in a door. And secondly, when a pattern is to be created by, for example, bookmatching or quartermatching the veneer.
It is not unusual for a cabinetmaker to find themselves requiring a wood veneer of a particular species. This happens when you suddenly find yourself needing to closely match the exisiting solid timber being used for the rest of the piece. And this is where wood can get really annoying. Fact is, the chances of finding veneers from one source that are the same colour as the solid wood from another is very small indeed.
Making Your Own
The solution is obvious, no? Make your own veneers from the same wood as the solid components in the piece! Sound easy? Well, it’s not – but it’s not impossible either.
Any good quality bandsaw with a decent rip saw bland (25mm wide and maybe 2/3 teeth per inch), can re-saw timber through its width for boards up to around 30cm wide. With a fence and the board held vertically it is possible to re-saw a board down to relatively thin slices of between 5 and 7mm thick. These can then be hand planed on one side and put through a good thicknesser (backed up) to get them down to around 3-4mm. From here, they can then be brought down to a thin veneer thickness using a ski and a router, or (heaven forbid!) a decent thickness sander.
We have had good success recently bringing bog oak down to under 1mm thickness using a 10 year old thickness sander with a 900mm bed. Remarkable when you think about it!
So that’s it. Now you’ve no excuse for not finding the perfect wood for the perfect veneer for that perfect piece you’re making!
NB: Please don’t try this at home, we take no responsibility for any mess you create. Watch all the videos and seek advice before you do this for the first time. No, seriously!
Lakshmi Bhaskaran, 2017.
Lakshmi studied at the Rowden Atelier in 2008, following on from a successful career as a design writer and author. It was at Rowden that she met her husband and business partner, Jonathan Walter. The pair set up Bark Furniture in 2010 and now run a successful furniture business, based in Cornwall, with clients all around the world. Lakshmi has written for renowned publications including Wallpaper and has authored five books in the design area.