Wood Veneer Types
Depending on product requirements and the methods needed during production, there are a variety of wood veneer types that are selected and used. It is one of the most commonly used forms of home decoration, giving consumers a more affordable alternative to solid wood products, while also offering a number of notable benefits. To help you decide which one is best for your project, here we explain more about the different wood veneer types that are available.
What is veneer?
Wood veneer is a beautiful decorative finish commonly used in furniture that is sourced by slicing timber from the trunk of a tree. This produces a sheet of wood that can then be trimmed down to the required dimensions. The process ensures that wood veneer maintains all the best qualities of the wood, while also being easier to manipulate and cut for specific applications.
The thickness of wood veneer sheets usually sits between 0.3 to 3mm, depending on the technique used and the end application. Once the veneer has been cut, they then need to be applied to other substrates such as MDF, chipboard and blockboard, which then allows them to be used for furniture and furnishings. On first appearance, this allows the products to appear as if they are made wholly from solid wood, offering the benefit of lower manufacturing costs which can then be passed onto the customer at affordable prices.
What are the different types of veneer?
Below we go into more detail about some of the most common types of veneer, how they are produced and what the finished product may feel and look like.
Natural veneer is a thin sheet that is taken from solid wood, ensuring it is fully preserved throughout production. In terms of appearance, it looks identical to furniture made from solid wood and offers a more economical alternative, while also being environmentally friendly and aesthetically unique due to the natural pattern.
This is a popular form of veneer, as you get the original texture and design of the material, and it is convincing enough to look like solid wood when used on furniture products. Peeled veneer is the cheapest of this type, which is taken from the outer edge of the log to produce a thin, solid later of wood.
Softwood rotary cut veneer is the primary source for engineered veneer, with blocks made by glueing together thin veneer sheets. Engineered veneer provides a uniform shade that does not feature any knots or cavities and can be cut into any size, and while more porous than fine-line veneer, it does offer endless options in terms of colour and range. Fine-line veneers tend to be around 600mm wide.
It comes from peeled softwood veneer, before being made into blocks, where veneer of various sizes, patterns and colours are obtained. Once cut, it is painted and dried, and then glued into position to create the required pattern before final cuts are made crosswise into the blocks. This is a more porous veneer compared to natural veneer as there can sometimes be hundreds of veneer strips all glued together.
Manufacturers use specialist technology that works well with modern design trends such as slopes and arches, and it has its own unique pattern, structure and texture, which is one of the reasons it has retained so long-lasting popularity.
Rotary cut veneer
Rotary cut veneers are the most common type around, with cuts being made from birch, oak, pine etc. Thin layers of wood are cut from a solid log using woodworking machines, before being trimmed to size and glued together. You’ll often see it in the construction of wooden door cladding and it is one of the affordable wood veneer varieties around.
The most common type of rotary cut veneer is usually between 0.1 to 10mm, which ensures manufacturing costs can remain low and affordable for consumers. While it does not have its own unique texture, it still maintains a lot of strength, making it a good fit for a range of furnishings.
Sliced wood veneer
Like a rotary cut veneer, sliced wood veneer also use valuable species such as beech, oak and mahogany. The direction of planning is also considered, depending on the type of wood used for the veneer. To touch, this type of veneer has a unique texture which is created by altering the cutting angles to change the workpiece planes.
The manufacturing process relies on veneer planning machines which strips wood from the trunk. This type of technology can usually achieve a solid wood grain pattern, and its this sort of authenticity that is one of the reasons why it remains such a popular furnishing choice.
During the production process, a pre-fixed log slowly rotates around a fixed blade to form the veneer sheets, with thicknesses usually ranging between 0.2 to 3mm, before they are folded in to bundles. When used on furniture, sliced veneer will usually have a thickness of 0.6, 1.5 or 3mm, depending on the requirements.
Shop sawn veneer
Shop sawn veneer is generally considered the most expensive type around, with the workpiece cut into planks of the desired thickness, which is labour intensive and increases the end cost. It can be used for an array of inlays, with the finished article looking quite special, finding uses with things such as musical instruments and luxury decorative finishes.
This is a technique that stretches back over 100 years, so is a real artform and only created by specialists. In terms of thickness, you should expect shop sawn veneer to vary between 1-10mm, with conifers like cedar, fir and spruce usually the type of timber used.
Horizontal sawmills or veneer saws are common tools used during the production process, with the veneer itself possessing several unique properties which accounts for some of the higher costs and the exclusivity it offers.
A roll veneer is an extremely thin sheet of wood that is cut to size using tools that also ensure the joints are not visible at all. Items with complex profiles and furniture edges often feature roll veneer due to their flexibility. You will also see roll veneer used in the manufacture of veneer skirting, mouldings and doors, still giving you the surface decoration of real wood, along with the sensation of it feeling like solid wood.
This type of veneer is made up of wood chips and a glued multi-layer material that is applied to a stable, elastic base. Thanks to use of modern technology, it can feature a variety of abstract and geometric designs that are fused with uniform dimensions that are not possible with traditional veneer.
Natural wood serves as the base for multi-veneer and is often thought of as being the most decorative style because the aesthetics offer close resemblances to natural wood, and it looks particularly good when used in period décor with a focus on traditional design.
Design and decorative veneer
Using wood for decorative purposes can feel limited, even if the shades and natural texture of the material are quite unique in design. However, use of design veneer expands those options so you can put the wood to greater use.
This is achieved by painting the surface of the natural wood with different decorative shades, which helps to preserve and maintain the key characteristics. Using this technique means you have broader scope when it comes to furnishings, as you have a much bigger palette and the option to bring together a combination of colours, if needed.
A more modern variation, this type of veneer uses a three-dimensional coating to produce an eye-catching final effect. By joining two thin veneer sheets you can add more detail, and when this is done, they are formed into differing textures.
There are two types of 3D veneer – one that displays a 3D effect that adds depth and dimension to a flat piece, giving the appearance of 3D without containing the physical attributes. On the other hand, there is a more recent development where wood veneer is curved and bent into various shapes to form a real-world 3D shape.
You can get large area facing sheets using spliced technology, which creates a symmetrical pattern. It typically uses valuable wood species that are applied to a fleece base made from small pieces of root veneer. Doing this allows for the formation of unique patterns, while also cutting down on waste.
Natural veneer wood types
There are more than 300 different types of wood used in the production of natural veneer. However, there is a much smaller selection of wood that is more commonly chosen, including:
American maple is strong and durable, which is why it is often used in floor decoration. Colour wise it ranges from light to dark brown.
You’ll find that Anigre is used in the manufacture of furniture and certain types of musical instruments. The wood has fantastic polishing and dyeing properties and varies in colour from white-brown to sandy-brown.
Colour varies from light tallow to light brown and the wood is primarily used in the furniture industry and for interior doors. The tones are vibrant, although this type of wood is susceptible to moisture, so should not be used in bathrooms and kitchens.
Another strong wood, Bubinga is often manufactured in the production of luxury furniture and ranges from purple red to brown in colour.
Reddish brown in colour, cherry wood looks great once polished and is relied upon heavily in the furniture industry and in the marking of exclusive, one-off products.
This is a more rare and expensive type of wood, that is beige in colour, with dark brown dots and varying patterns. You will usually see it used as ornamental material or for inlays.
Another strong wood ideal for a wide range of furniture and door cladding and is red in appearance.
Nut wood is used frequently in the furniture industry and reacts well to all types of processing. In terms of appearance, nut wood is light or dark brown in colour.
This is used by furniture manufacturing companies for more affordable pieces due to its low wear resistance and has a light pale complexion.
Wenge is a high class wood that is dark brown with a light base, offering high resistance levels and is used in home decoration and top range furniture.
What are the benefits of wood veneer?
Compared to solid wood, wood veneer offers a range of benefits that make it the ideal solution for interior decoration. This includes:
Wood veneer is a natural product that is sourced from a renewable material. It is recyclable, bio-degradable and non-toxic and benefits from being the only truly sustainable and renewable building material today.
Product strength is enhanced when veneer is applied to a substrate. Where solid wood can sometimes crack or swell when exposed to extreme temperatures and moisture levels, in most cases veneer is strong and durable enough to withstand these types of conditions.
Each sheet of veneer is 100% original because the grain patterns of every tree is totally unique and individual. That means a finished veneer product is a complete one-off with its own special characteristics.
No wood is wasted in the production of veneer as they are sliced from the log rather than cut, so manufacturers can maximise the efficiency of their materials while reducing any wastage.
The nature of veneer means it is extremely easy to work with and is now an essential component for a wide range of furniture types, as well as being extensively used for interior decoration. Even novice DIYers can include veneer within their projects, providing they have the right tools.
Unlike solid wood, veneer is far less likely to experience issues such as splitting, warping or seasonal movement. This helps to increase the lifespan of the product, so you get to enjoy it for longer with less signs of wear and tear in the interim.
While wood veneer has traditionally been used for interior decoration for domestic environments, it is also a popular design choice for commercial spaces, such as conference rooms, executive offices, reception areas and more. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it provides a high-quality finish that satisfies consumers who want a substantial feel to their furniture.
Wood veneer is so convincing that on first appearance you may not even realise that you are looking at a veneer instead of solid wood. It maintains many of the same qualities, while offering its own unique benefits.
Of course, there are some veneers that are more expensive than others, but in general terms it is cheaper than investing in solid wood products and still provides the same sort of classic look that feels just as good to the touch. The list above gives you an idea of just how much can be done with wood veneer and its ability to adapt to a host of environments ensures that no matter the project you have in mind, there is likely to be a veneer that suits your needs.