Preparing the Logs
As you would expect, wood veneers are made from real wood. Undoubtedly, they are extremely thin slices of tree--oak, walnut, cherry, aspen, to name a few--but when veneers are properly prepared using the finest trees, their natural beauty and luster is unmatched by any man-made faux wood product. Veneers are termed as either hard, soft, burl, exotic or domestic, depending on the original tree used. To begin the process of creating veneers, trees of the desired variety and size are selected. Limbs are removed, long logs (up to 12 feet long) are cut, and are then transported to a veneer manufacturing site. In preparation for the cutting process, the logs are soaked in 160 degree Farenheit water for a period of time.
Debarking and Cutting
The soaked log must first be debarked. A saw blade trims the bark from the log in a long, sweeping motion. The log is turned until all bark has been removed. The debarked log is then cut in half lengthwise. Veneer flitches are cut using a process called flat-cutting, in which a razor-sharp blade cuts the slices, much like a deli slicer slices cheese or lunch meat. Sequenced slices of a tree cut longitudinally are referred to as flitches, and are generally 8 feet long. Each flitch sheet is placed in dryers, one by one, to remove all moisture. The flitches exit the dryers one at a time and are ready to be bundled.
Clipping and Joining
After the veneer flitches have exited the dryers, they are trimmed perfectly so that later they can be joined together, making seamless, matched sheets of veneer. To make 4-by-8 veneer sheets, the flitches are joined together. The large, raw sheets are stacked together and are backed with paper or some other type of thin substrate using glue. A final, precise trimming process occurs, and the sheets are sanded. The sheets are then sorted, graded and priced according to their quality and wood type.
Some of the most interesting-looking veneers, such as burls, fiddle back, blistered or spalted, occur because of an infection, fungus or tumor-like growth on the original, living tree. Too, veneers with a high luster appear so because these particular wood varieties contain more dense fibers that reflect light differently, depending on how the light hits the wood. These densely fibered woods change in appearance from light to dark when viewed in different lighting and are highly prized by craftspeople and furniture makers around the world. Thinly slicing these diseased woods using the process described above turns them into veneers that add unrivaled beauty to everyday objects.