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About Timber Veneer

Wood veneer

What is timber veneer?

Timber veneer is a decorative building material made up of thin wood slices glued to a wooden board, particleboard or fibreboard. It has long been regarded as the best and most efficient use of valuable woods by builders and designers. Timber veneer is a thin, uniformly thick layer of wood. Our timber veneer panels are either cut at 0.6mm, the standard thickness for the Australian market, or peeled at a variety of thicknesses.

Timber veneer is made from a natural, renewable resource that competes with non-renewable materials such as steel, aluminium and plastics. Veneer has a surface coverage of about forty times that of 25mm wood, making it the most cost-effective way of using valuable wood. One cubic metre of log yields approximately 1,000 square metres of real timber veneer. No other type of woodworking material achieves such a high level of efficiency with minimal waste.

Timber veneer sustainability

Timber veneer is one of the most eco-friendly and long-lasting building materials on the market. It is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to use wood as it's 100 per cent biodegradable, reusable, recyclable, and renewable. Using wood products, such as timber veneer, is better for the environment in two important ways.

Firstly, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow and store it so efficiently that it makes up about half of a tree's dry weight. Even when used for building products or furniture, this carbon is 'locked up' for the entire life of the timber veneer and wood. If the wood decays or is burned, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

Secondly, one of the most greenhouse-friendly sectors of the Australian economy is the forest and wood products industry. In fact, it is the only Australian industry that stores more carbon dioxide than it emits. As a result, increasing the use of timber veneer and products helps to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.

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Types of timber veneer cuts

Timber veneer is made in one of two ways: by 'peeling' a tree's trunk or by thinly slicing large rectangular blocks of wood called flitches. As a standard for our Australian market, most veneer panels are cut at 0.6mm thickness.  The appearance of the grain in the veneer is created by slicing through a tree's growth rings and the visual characteristics of each veneer will vary depending on the angle at which the wood is sliced.

The most common timber veneer cuts and grain patterns are described below.

Rotary cut timber veneer

The rotary cut timber veneer is produced by slicing the log around its circumference in a pattern that follows the annual growth rings. This results in a bold, variegated grain and allows for the production of very wide leaves. The most common type of veneer used in plywood production is rotary cut veneer.

Quarter cut timber veneer

To make a quarter cut veneer, the log is cut into quarters and four flitches are created. Each quarter flitch is then straight sliced at roughly right angles to the growth rings, resulting in a veneer with a vertical grain that is uniformly lined.

Crown cut timber veneer

The log is cut in half and then sliced straight across for crown cut veneers. The cut is tangent to the growth rings and parallel to a line running through the centre of the log. Crown cut veneers have a more linear effect at the edges and a strong grain pattern in the centre.

Rift cut timber veneer

Rift cutting is primarily used for Oak species with lines radiating out from the log's centre. Each quarter of the log is sliced slightly across the tree's outward radiating lines, highlighting the vertical grain.

Half-round cut timber veneer

The log is mounted off-centre in a lathe for a half-round cut veneer. Slices are then made across the growth rings to create veneer leaves that have some of the visual characteristics of both crown cut and rotary veneers.

Burl timber veneer

A burl is a type of tree growth in which the grain has become deformed. It usually appears as a round outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch, often with small knots formed by dormant buds. Burl veneers are prized for their intricate and one-of-a-kind patterns.

Curl timber veneer

Curl veneer is created by cutting at the junction of tree trunk and branches. The wood has been confined and twisted between the two limbs as they have increased in size, resulting in a distinctive patterning.

Butt timber veneer

Butt veneer is made by slicing the logs across the annual rings that occur at the ends. When laid out on panels, these small veneers give the impression of natural round logs stacked on top of one another.

Methods of assembling timber veneer leaves

Different methods of joining can produce a variety of visual effects. An overview of the most commonly used ones can be found below.

Book Matching

This is the most common joining method, in which each veneer leaf is a mirror image of the one before it. This unique look is achieved by folding leaves out alternately as if opening the centre spread of a book.

Slip Matching

When slip matching, the veneer leaves are laid face up, side by side. The result is a pattern in which the same grain pattern is repeated across the layon at the width of each leaf.

Mismatched or Random Matched

Individual leaves are matched at random to create a specific effect in this method; it is a common way to lay Knotty Radiata pine. Characteristics like knot clusters can be distributed more evenly across the timber veneer sheets using this method.

Reverse Slip Matching

The leaves are first slip-matched and then every other veneer leaf is turned end to end. This enables manufacturers to "balance" crowns in the leaves so that they do not all appear at the same end.

Opal Wood Corporation, as a specialist Australian timber merchant, can assist you with all aspects of selection, procurement and supply to ensure that your project is completed on time, on budget and to the expected standards. We look forward to helping you with your next project.

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