Veneer and Marquetry

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It is a common misconception that using a wood veneer is sub-standard to using a hardwood. In this blog I would like to address how using a wood veneer for furniture or cabinetry can vastly enhance the visual effect - but also increase its longevity as well as have a positive effect on the environment.

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Whilst wood veneers have been used for centuries, first dating back 4000years (notably in the Grand Tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs), it has been traditionally the view that a hardwood piece of furniture or cabinetry will be much better quality. However, with the increasing awareness of the environmental issues of sustainability and ecological management – consideration on how we use our natural timber is becoming of much greater importance. Specifically for more endangered species, and where there is a direct choice in play, choosing a veneer rather than lumber makes the world's trees go further:
1 cubic metre of lumber = 20 square metres of lumber
1 cubic metre of veneer = 900 square metres of veneer

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Whilst these facts can demonstrate how the world's trees can be more efficiently used, it is still important to me that the veneer is sourced in a way that protects the environment. By using FSC ® and PEFC certified veneers, I can be assured that veneers do not come from countries with no environmental controls.

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Veneers are usually 3mm in thickness, but can be as thin as 0.6mm. These are then applied to a sustainable substrate, which are much lighter than hardwood - making the furniture easier to move and handle. To obtain the veneer; the tree's bark is "peeled" off, or by slicing rectangular blocks of the tree, these are known as "flitches". The appearance of the grain in the wood is attributed to the growth rings of the tree and the angle of the slicing. Learn more about the art of cutting real wood veneers by clicking here.

Compared to wood, one of the other primary advantages of using veneer is stability. While solid wood can be prone to warping and splitting, because veneer is made of thin layers of wood glued together, the chances of splitting or cracking are reduced. Furthermore, the glue used provides additional strength, making the end result stronger than natural wood.

Some projects built using wood veneer would not be possible to construct using solid lumber, owing to expansion and contraction caused by fluctuation of temperature and humidity.

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There are several way in which a veneer can be applied to the substrate, which can create truly beautiful effects. Looking back at the Renaissance period (14th - 19th Centuries) the skill and ability of craftsman advanced considerably with the development of tools. Renaissance wood veneering gradually became very sophisticated. Cabinetmakers would make use of stunning exotic timbers and burl grain to create exquisite designs or even pictured scenes. This craft we now know as marquetry, and it was used extensively in the lavish furniture creations crafted for nobility and royalty.

François Linke Louis XV Style Ormolu-Mounted and Marquetry Commode François Linke Louis XV Style Ormolu-Mounted and Marquetry Commode

Above we have a French Louis XV style ormolu-mounted Kingwood, mahogany, amaranth and end-cut marquetry two-drawer serpentine-shaped bombé commode by Francois Linke (1855-1946), circa 1920. A prime example of how exquisite marquetry can be seen in the renaissance style. Although you would have to really love this piece - a collector's item at, wait for it… £339,106.07!

Using wood veneer in 21st Century design is a fascinating way of creating truly inspired pieces of furniture and cabinetry. With the shared appreciation of veneers with our local cabinetmakers in Beaconsfield and surrounding areas; we use our access to the huge variety of hues, grain and markings to assist our clients to create truly unique pieces of furniture and cabinetry for their homes.

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