Timber veneer is a natural product that is manufactured from the slicing of very thin sheets off a log/tree. These slices are approximately 0.4 to 0.6mm in thickness. There are several methods of slicing which produces the different veneer grades & patterns:

  • Crown Cut
  • Quarter Cut
  • Rotary Cut

The moisture content of the leaves of veneer is very important. The desired moisture content is between 8 – 12%. This allows the veneer to be processed efficiently as it is much more stable than at other percentages. Problems may occur if the veneer moisture content is over 12% as the pressing process dries the veneer and shrinkage may occur after pressing when the veneer tries to draw moisture back in. If the moisture content of the veneer is under 8% the veneer becomes too brittle to work with.

The resilience to abrasion of the veneer is directly linked to the timber species hardness, i.e. harder timber is more resilient and softer timber is less resilient.

Veneer comes in a huge variety of colours, grain structure and density. It can vary from tight pore to open grain as well as the following grain types:

Crown Cut
Shows the definite true grain of the timber

Quarter Cut
Shows the veneer being very linear.

Rotary Cut
Shows a very large pattern, which incorporates both of the above.

One of the things that should be taken into consideration when making a veneer selection is what the veneer is to be used for (the application), the effectiveness of the design and man’s creativity.

When specifying veneers it is important to consider aesthetics, cost, timber hardness and moisture resistance for the application the end user wishes to apply it to.

DESIGN Timber veneers are extremely flexible in design. They can be laid in different patterns, shapes and inlayed, one inside the other to form the desired look. They can also the mixed & matched with one another even though the colours and timber species may be totally different (dark with light and figured with straight grained).

Veneers may be layered in one or more of the following forms to create distinctive

Book Matched

Slip Matched

End Matched

Quarter Matched

Star Burst

Book Matched is the most commonly used method. This design is created by opening the leaves out in a book fashion to form a pattern.
Slip Matched is when the veneer leaves are layed across each other to form a reoccurring or mirrored pattern.
End Matched is when the veneer is matched end to end to form a continuous line.
Quarter Matched is when the veneer is cut to form a quarter pattern from a point in the middle of the table panel etc; this gives an impression of a sunray effect.
Star Burst is when the veneer is sliced in wedges and laid out to form a circular pattern starting from the middle of the table panel etc, this gives a radiating effect.

Veneers may be laid on various substrates:

  • Particle board
  • Medium Density Fibre Board (MDF)
  • Plywood
  • Block Board

The selection of the sub-straight is dependant on the application:

  • Size
  • Thickness
  • Environment

Veneer is purchased in flitch form (bundles) from a log. A log may have matching flitches in the form of the various types of patterns – Crown, Quarter and/or Rotary Cut. Most logs have what is termed “Running Bundles”, which means the bundles have near to the same matching patterns from one bundle to the other.

The veneer is cut to length using a Cut Off Guillotine, then when the panel width is calculated it is then cut on the guillotine to the desired width.
To make the veneer into a “Layon Sheet” (the full sheet to be pressed onto the sub-straight) the veneer leaves are stitched together in the various chosen design specification ( Book Matched, Slip matched, etc.).

The two elements of veneer and sub-straight (chosen dependant upon the application) are then ready to be fused together in a hot press, which is used to accelerate the drying time of the glue (which is a selection process within itself).

There are various types of glues, which may be chosen from:

  • Poly Vinyl Acetate (PVA) – single pack.
  • Cross-link PVA – A stronger form of PVA – single pack.
  • Urea Formaldehyde Resin (UF Resin) – The most commonly used for panel laying.

The glue is applied to the panel sparingly and the veneer layon is placed on the top of the sub-straight with another cheaper veneer layon placed on the bottom of the sub-straight which is used as a balance to prevent the board bowing after it is taken out of the press. Once the board is pressed for the time required by the adhesive, the panel is then taken out and left to cool, then edged and sanded ready for the finishing process.

The choice of finishes applied to the various types of veneers is dependent upon the following:

Type of veneer
Timber veneers vary a lot in their composition, some veneers have Tannin and other chemicals within their cell structure, which effect the finish applied to it.
Application of the finished product
This may range from vertical entry doors that don’t get much wear & tear to a boardroom table that gets high end use.
This varies from product to product. Starting at a single pack lacquer to a two-pack chemical, water, humidity resistant product. The main factor to be taken into consideration is it’s wearing capabilities.

Open grain or closed grain – Open grain is when the lacquer is applied to just enough to allow the veneer characteristics to show the structure of the grain. Closed grain is when the lacquer is applied to the veneer until the pores are full, then the surface is sanded to a flat finish and a final coat is applied to give a flat glass finish.

Gloss level
The gloss is the sheen that is brought through by the lacquer according to how much matting agent is put in it. Hence, the greater the amount of matting agent that is added to the lacquer, the flatter or less glossy the finished appearance will be. The application and client’s preference is used for making this decision.

There are various types of finishes that may be applied to a veneer product, these are:

Single Pack Lacquer (Pre Mixed Catalysed Lacquer)
This is a single pack lacquer which has a catalyst already applied within the drum and can be used without additives. This is to be used in less wearing, less trafficable areas. This product yellows in time due to aging and exposure to UV rays.

Two Pack Lacquer (Acid Catalysed Lacquer)
This product is similar to the Pre-Mixed Catalysed Lacquer, but it has a hardener, which is mixed with it before spraying. This product also yellows with time and age, but has extra durability and can be used in higher traffic areas.

Two-Pack Polyurethane
This product is a two pack with stronger hardeners and therefore it offers more wear, scratch and stain resistance than the products listed above. It also has a higher bonding property and may assist the ease of grain filling. This product it used in high traffic areas such as boardroom tables etc.

PLEASE NOTE: No product is totally scratch, chemical, wear and water resistant and care still has to be taken in maintaining the end product. All products will to a certain degree darken and yellow in various proportions and time, this is more evident on lighter veneers than darker ones (sunlight and UV rays may also accelerate this process and objects left on finished surfaces eg table tops, will have no contact with light coming from perimeter windows or fluorescent lights and therefore show a lighter colour when moved than the surrounding surface. The lacquered surface is affected by the conditions not the veneer itself and if the lacquer were removed, providing the product has been properly maintained, it would appear as good as the day it was laid.

The finishes are applied by one of two methods:

  • Brush
  • Spray

If the finish coats are not left to harden before the subsequent coats are applied a “Sink Back Effect” will occur (due to the lacquer still making it’s way into the pores of the veneer). To prevent sink back occurring, all coats must be thoroughly dry before the following coat is applied, particularly on a grain filled finish.

Maintenance of a well-made veneer product is essential and instruction should be given to the end user to ensure the longevity of the piece.

Methods of Cleaning:

Initial cleaning
It is recommended to dust surface with a damp cloth dusting in the direction of the natural grain. Do not use a wet cloth (this will result in streaking).
Dirty Marks
Marks can be removed by using paste wax provided in the kit. Just rub it on evenly in a circular motion around the dirty area. When this is complete rub the whole top in the direction of the timber grain along the whole top evenly to allow the area initially to blend in. Allow to dry and settle for general use.
Scratches caused by general day to day use caused by dragging of objects across the surface can be restored by a product called “Scratch Out”. Just apply with a soft cloth and rub vigorously into the scratch affected area and then on the surface running along the grain, let dry, then apply paste wax and allow to dry.

Should (through constant use/misuse) a dent becomes visible you will notice that it will usually form a white surround/splitting. For best results it is recommended to have surface stripped back to veneer followed by re-spraying

Repairing is possible by using coloured wax sticks. Heat the wax colour closet to surface colour and apply to dented area. Rub back finely with polishing cloth and the heat generated would take away excess wax. This is only a temporary solution and the repair may still be noticed.

Clean water is the big secret in cleaning.

Spray Wax
Spray wax is used and recommended by the leading manufacturers of furniture to introduce and preserve a deep lustrous, no-shine glow. Spray wax is especially formulated from the correct proportions of natural oils and waxes to clean and enrich

(without harming or darkening) furniture and fittings, including natural timbers, Teak, Blackwood, Walnut, Mahogany and low gloss simulated timber laminates and hard surfaces.

PLEASE NOTE: A clean cloth is to be used at all times to help maintain and preserve your products for years to come.

  • It is recommended not to write directly on top of soft veneer surfaces as pen marks may show
  • Do not place hot or cold objects such as drinks etc. directly onto surface, use a coaster or other form of protection, as this may result in white marks forming on the lacquer.
  • Do not use steel wool, scouring pads, powder cleansers, chemicals or highly concentrated detergents to clean manufactured products.
  • Do not overload recommended weight capacity.
  • Only use products in alignment with what it has been designed for.
  • Veneered tops will darken or yellow over a period of time, discoloring may be the result of the polish ageing or the effects of the UV rays in direct sunlight. Hence, leaving an object in one place on a veneered top over a long period of time will show the area around the object to be darker and this is what is known as “Sun Shade”. To prevent this, keep blinds drawn from direct light affecting furniture. If possible keep the furniture away from window area with a high concentration of sun.
  • Neither timber nor polish is scratch resistant, so it is recommended to put a protective liner under any object that may scratch the top i.e.: Felt, matting, coasters etc.

Whatever method you choose in the maintenance of your product when cleaning, it is important to remember the following:

  • Try on a small inconspicuous area first.
  • Always use clean water.
  • Avoid a high concentration of cleaners, particularly over prolonged periods of time.
  • Regular cleaning is highly recommended to maintain your quality products.

The “Recommendations for Cleaning and Maintenance” of our manufactured products was derived from various sources and was believed to be correct when published. The information is advisory only, it is provided in good faith and without prejudice and not claimed to be an exhaustive treatment of the relevant subject.

Further professional advice might need to be obtained before taking any action based on the information provided.

No responsibility will be accepted for the performance of cleaning products and any consequential damages arising from the use of these products, since the quality control and application is outside the control of the writer.

The writer accepts no responsibility for the misuse of cleaning products and includes the information provided as a guide only. Avoid high concentration of cleaners for prolonged periods of time.

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