Lumber & Wood Videos

An Introduction to Veneering

Veneering in woodworking is not new, it has been around in one form or another for centuries. It has been practiced by woodworkers in many different parts of the world, often as smaller pieces, for inlays, accents and other features. Today, we have an amazing breadth of wood species to choose from, from almost any exotic hardwood you can imagine, to figure woods and burls that are spectacular. With all the varieties and figured wood veneers that are available now, anyone who wants to take the time to learn veneering can turn out wood projects that are truly works of art.

There are basically three kinds of veneering, the oldest form and the one we are going to spend the most time on here, is called cold veneering, where veneer strips are glued to a substrate or base. Also becoming quite popular are is veneering where a glue has been applied to the back of the veneer and it can be attached to the substrate by simply by peeling off a plastic or waxy backing and then sticking the veneer on to the substrate. This is called Pressure Veneering and only requires a type of blade or edge to smooth the veneer out over the substrate and is ideal for smaller projects. The third kind of veneering is done by using a veneer with a heat activated glue pre-applied to the back of the veneer, and is called Heat Activated Veneering. In this case the veneer is laid on the substrate material and something a simple as a household iron is used to attach the veneer to the substrate.

All of these methods of veneering work well, not all of them in the same situations, and that is why there are different kinds ... because some work better in one instance while another works better somewhere else. Any of the pre-applied glue veneers are more costly than raw veneers and the choices of veneers is far less with the pre-applied glue types. For larger veneering projects and where ongoing veneering is the norm, the cold veneering with raw veneers is easily the most effective and preferred method. Other types are normally more suited for smaller projects.

Finding Figured Woods

spaltingWoodworkers are always looking for wood that has "figure" or some other anomaly that makes it distinctive. Figured wood is relatively hard to find, as is most wood with some sort of distinction. When it comes to wood that look different there are a few different things to look for and it depends on what you want to do with the wood when you are looking. Wood turners are very often making smaller pieces like bowls, urns, pens and other smaller projects so finding distinctive wood for a turner is very important. Luthiers are probably the highest on the level of looking for distinctive woods because they are always looking for some sort of figured wood for making musical instruments. Wood artists who make smaller projects are also often looking for wood that is different so there is a big call for these kinds of woods.

Very often it is possible to find some of these woods, particularly if you don't need a large volume of it, in something a close as a wood pile. When trees are cut down for firewood, from time to time there are parts of the the tree that are hard to cut with a chain saw, or hard to split with an axe. These pieces or often cast aside, and these are often the pieces that can provide some sort of figure, unique grain structure or even spalting.

Distinctive woods come in a variety of ways, they can be something a simple as "crotch wood", a term used to describe the way wood grows around the joint of a branch and where it joins the main part of a tree, to something more elaborate as a spalting, which happens when wood gets wet for long periods and fungus grows throughout the wood changing the color patterning within the wood.

Breaking Down or "Dressing" Rough Lumber

marks_1aThe most economical way to purchase lumber is to buy green, rough cut lumber. Of course the disadvantage is that you have to dry it yourself, which takes time (yes this can take up to 3 or 4 years with some hardwoods), and then in order to make it useable, you need to break it down or "dress" the lumber (at least in most cases) which simply means making it useable for woodworking projects.

The problem with this process is that frequently your wood will warp and bend as it drys, which is normal. Some wood will bend and move slightly while other pieces will bend wildly out of shape. Most lumber as it dries will bend and move in more than one plane creating what is termed a "propeller"shape.

Dressing this lumber down can be a real hazard if you are not careful because of the the way the wood is warped, and especiallt if you are working with 8 or 9 quarter inch thick boards ( 2" - 2 1/2"). thinner lumber such as 4 quarter (one inch thick) is less a bit easier to work with but BOTH can be a hazard, and here'w why ....

Wood Movement and Moisture Content

One of the challenges that novice woodworkers soon discover it that working with wood means you need to understand it's properties, and one of the most rudimentary properties is the moisture content of wood.

Wood has the unique ability to absorb and release moisture. This is due to the cellular makeup of all types of wood, although different species of wood will absorb and release moisture at different rates. It is the coming and going of moisture that accounts for wood movement. If you were to grasp a handful of drinking straws in your hand, this is very similar to the structure wood. It is comprised of long microscopic tubes all bound together. It is these  microscopic tubes that exchange nutrients up and down the tree as it is growing, and primarily moisture is gathered from the roots and distributed through the growth rings of the tree and on up into the leaves.

When a living tree is cut down, no matter what time of the year, there is always large moisture content in the tree, and a much higher one in the spring and summer. Depending on how the tree is milled, and how the wood is dried will also affect, to a degree, how that wood absorbs and releases moisture.