Have you ever wondered why veneers are used instead of solid timber? Is solid wood always the best choice for your table top? In this article, we delve into everything you need to know about veneer table tops.
What is veneer?
A veneer is a thin layer of wood (often expensive) that is glued to a thicker, stable sheet (usually of a cheaper material such as plywood or MDF), in a way to make the combination look like solid wood.
The advantages of wood veneers
Using a veneer can be a cheaper option than using an expensive solid wood (Walnut, Oak, Mahogany, Cheery etc.), but the stability of a veneered top is a second very important reason why veneers are sometimes used instead of solid wood. MDF and plywood, unlike most solid timber, does not shrink and expand (much) with changes in humidity and temperature, so a veneered top with a core is the sensible option if this (almost imperceptible) movement might cause a problem - for instance if a wooden table top has a metal edge. As the metal edge does not shrink or expand in the same manner as solid wood, combining the two can mean that a gap appears between them. We specify veneered tops if this combination is required - see our blog: Never Fix Metal Edging To Solid Wooden Table Tops.
When using a veneered top, more thought needs to be given to the edge of the table top (as the sides of core material usually needs to be hidden) - for more information on edging and edge profiles, please see our article on Table Top Edge Profiles.
A further benefit of veneers is that you can be more creative and playful with them, as a thin layer of veneer is easier to cut and shape than solid blocks of timber (and, again, will be more stable.)
Veneer tends to be supplied is a sheets with a thickness of 0.8mm.
Note: veneered table tops tend to also have a 'balancing' veneer on the underside of the top, of the same thickness - but often of a cheaper material.
The most common thicknesses of the core sheet material are 18mm, 25mm, and 30mm, sometimes 38mm - read more in our blog: Wooden Table Top Thickness.
The most common veneer cuts are crown or quarter cut. This refers to the way the wood is sliced from the tree, which results in different types of wood grains.
Crown cut is when the log is sliced in half, and slices are made straight across, parallel to a line through the centre of the log. This results in a strong grain pattern in the center and more linear effects towards the edges.
Quarter cut is when the log is first cut into quarters. Then each quarter is straight sliced at right angles to the growth rings. This produces a veneer with uniform lined vertical grains.
Veneer timber species
There are many types of veneer table tops, some of the most popular ones include ash, beech, oak, or walnut. Other species like Pippy Oak, Sapele, Poplar, Cheery, Maple, and Wenge are also rising in demand. Additionally, veneer tops can be stained to match your client's sample colour. The combinations are endless!
Oak: warm, honey coloured. It doesn't scratch or damage easily as it is a very dense, hard wood.
Ash: cream to pale yellow in colour. This type of wood is tough, strong, and quite elastic, so it is easy to use.
Beech: In its raw state, beech is creamy white, but steamed beech, which it often is, takes on a dark, pinkish tone. It is often preferred for its plain, unobtrusive look.
Walnut: greyish to brown-black in colour, walnut veneer is often used for a refined look. It is fine in texture and finishes well with a strain or clear coat. Walnut is strong, medium in density, and easy to work with.
Veneer patterns and inlays
Veneers can then be used to form a kaleidoscope of patterns. The most popular patterns include mix parquet, quartered, and herringbone, which can be created using one timber species, a combination of different species, or even inlaid with metal (as below.)
Herringbone: The herringbone pattern is an arrangement of wood veneers in a style that resembles the skeleton of a fish, hence the name herringbone.
Parquet: Parquet is generally described as the effect created from a geometric mosaic of wooden pieces, and mix parquet involves the use of different types of veneer species.
Quartered: Quartered is an arrangement pattern whereby the wood veneers are lain perpendicular to one another, in this effect, the gains are aligned in the shape of a square.
See veneer samples in person
At the Contract Chair Company, we have many solid wood table tops and samples on display at our Hammersmith furniture showroom. Alternatively, you can download our Hospitality Furniture Knowledge booklet to learn more about the pros and cons of furniture materials, current style trends, and tips and tricks of the trade.
For examples of the extensive array of veneer table tops we offer, please take a look at the below.