December 17, 2012

Wood Veneers and Where They Come From


Last week I visited Wavell-Huber, a local wood product supplier in Salt Lake City.  The purpose:  finding the perfect veneer for a custom furniture piece I'm designing for a client.  I went with my client, and we were both in awe (as I always am) of the beauty of natural wood.

I've worked with plenty of veneer panels and materials while doing custom cabinetry and furniture, though I never had the chance to see the raw natural veneer prior to being laid up on a panel.  So this was a first, and it was fascinating to see!

We started by looking at several samples, noting which was most appealing, and which would be the right pattern/consistency for the size of the furniture piece.

Some of our favorites for this application:

walnut burl

crotch mahogany

Sapele Pomele (2 logs shown) and Bubinga

These are amazing, right?  But what's really incredible is the thought that these pieces become large panels for architectural millwork.  How is that done?  Well, here's my favorite part:  These individual veneer pieces (called flitches) and literally sewn together and then applied to the panel substrate (MDF or something similar).  This is the sewing machine.  See that thread?  It's actually glue... sorta like those solid glue sticks for hot glue guns, but much much thinner.


A close-up of 2 veneer flitches stitched together:

Individual flitches (of rift-cut oak):

Flitches applied to the panel (not quite finished):

Once the panel is complete, it will be great for cabinetry, paneling, etc.  Here's an example  (in an office kitchenette I designed using wire-brushed natural rift-cut oak):

There's a lot more to the production of veneer (how the log is cut, how the flitches are matched on a panel, and how panels are sized for a space).  If you want more information, I found this document extremely helpful.