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Veneer: Sawn or sliced?

The technique of sawing wood into thin sheets of veneer dates to the Egyptian pharaohs. Only recently was the machinery developed for manufacturing it by slicing. (Think of slicing a carrot with a peeler.) You can get forty or more sheets from a one inch thick board this way, but they are all paper thin (.6 mm).

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We use sawn veneer almost exclusively, cutting it ourselves on a specially developed saw. And we make it much thicker (1.5 mm), even though this means we get fewer sheets.

Why is this important? First, is the problem of durability and longevity. With paper thin veneer, any damage to the wood is, essentially, irreparable. Furniture made with it will, generally, last only as long as the finish because you cannot realistically refinish it.

Second, many of the most beautiful woods are three-dimensional, meaning that light is reflected, not just from the surface, but from deep in the grain. Tiger maple, for example, is like a hologram, changing color and pattern as you move around it. This is all but lost with thin veneer.

Finally, with so little wood to work with, it is impossible to do the kind of “alchemic” coloration we prefer. Also, slicing requires steaming the wood to make it soft, but tends to dull the color. Thus, the beauty of many woods is compromised.