In furniture making, a veneer is referred to as a thin slice of wood glued to a panel typically for decorative purposes. Many species of wood can be adhered to various material types such as other common woods, particle board and MDF panels, but usually the end result is the same; To create beautiful looking pieces of furniture while using the least amount of resources. This is especially true when it comes to rare and exotic timbers like those found on many of the finer samples. There are times when using a solid piece of lumber just isn’t economically or ecologically viable, and by using a veneer, more of the log can be used with as little waste as possible. Also as a result of using veneers, larger areas can be covered while still maintaining the overall integrity of the grain, giving pieces like dining tables and large dressers a more even and consistent appearance.
There are many different types of veneers and can be produced in several ways, each serving its own individual purpose. The two most common types of veneers you may see in finer furniture today would be either by using a single sheet applied to the surface, or by a more complicated method known as crossbanding in which smaller pieces are fitted together to compose a greater detailed pattern.
Still, no matter how you piece it together, the type of wood species used for your creation is essentially the great defining factor. Individual grain patterns are just as unique as a finger print, and can vary in many different ways. Here are just a few examples of some of the more exotic woods used in some of today’s modern Italian furniture.
- Japanese Tamo Burl
Once used exclusively for Shoguns and Royalty, the Japanese Tamo is one of the most rare and treasured of woods.
For centuries, workers would have to carry the wood down the mountain by hand making it scarce, so a more sensible means of cultivation would have to be found.
To duplicate the type of unique cascading pattern caused by vines restricting flow of nutrients in the wild, master craftsmen would tie off young saplings causing growth spurts that could be seen in the grain. With its deep, startling grey hue, modern furniture designers have made this a welcomed new trend.
- Bird’s Eye Maple
Though maple itself is quite commonly used for making furniture, Bird’s Eye is in fact very rare because it simply isn’t a species on its own. Only about one in 500 trees actually produce the distinctive Bird’s Eye pattern.
This abnormal variety at one time could only be used by the most skilled of craftsmen. Even though hard maple has its own industrial use, Bird’s Eye was deemed too difficult to work with and wasn’t even allowed in commercial mills.
The divergent grain would incur chips and tears during the cutting process making a “run” of Bird’s Eye limber suitable only as firewood. Today, thanks to modern advancements in woodworking tools such as new carbide blades and machines running at higher RPMs, you will find this once problematic wood now being made into higher end products like furniture, musical instruments, auto dashboards and the like. Bright and airy in color, its popularity has increased over the years now becoming more of an indicator for the finer things.
- Makassar Ebony
This exceptionally hard wood is revered by carpenters around the world and considered one of the highest priced timbers today. With its alternating bands of color, the rich striping pattern has long since captured the imagination of carvers for centuries.
Because of its hardness, it is known as being a very difficult species to work with due to its high density and interlocking grain. Great care is required during the working process in addition to skill for if the craftsman isn’t vigil about their work, the wood can easily show cracks and split. As a consequence of improper handling, many of the logs arrive defective before they can be turned into useable products. So with all of these too frequent problems and in conjunction with a limited area of growth, the final result is a higher premium for the wood.
This still doesn’t discourage artisans all over the world from using it to create beautiful pieces of furniture, or just about anything else only limited by imagination.
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