Below is step-by-step process of how I make a vanity top using Maple veneer.
The top itself is about 15” wide and will need 3 pieces of 5” wide veneer strips be joined together. I bought some commercial veneer that is 1/16” thick and just a bit more than 5” wide. After ripping it to rough length, I needed to make the edges of each piece of veneer perfectly straight so they could be glued together. The process is much like working with thick wood with a few small differences.
Here are two of the pieces that will be joined together. Each piece has been marked to assure I keep everything in order.
I took the two pieces that will be joined together, and folded them on top of each other, almost as if they were a book. I am pointing at the edge that will be joined.
Keeping the edges aligned, both pieces are placed on this ledger board.
Another board is placed on top to make a “sandwich” with the both pieces of veneer in between the two outer boards. The entire piece is then clamped together.
I use a hand plane to take several light passes along the edge. It’s important to have a well-tuned hand plane with a razor sharp edge to get the best result. If everything is aligned correctly, this will result in two perfectly matched edges.
Everything worked out just as planned. There are no gaps and everything is ready for gluing up.
Join us at “Bandsaws & Bourbon” for an opportunity to witness how Greenwood Bay hand makes some of the most unique furniture around and then experience a tasting of some of the best distilled spirits anywhere.
Attendees will have the chance to tour our shop and learn how we make our live edge furniture and artwork. Our pieces have been seen on HGTV’s “Home by Novogratz” as well as the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express, HOUZZ, and numerous design blogs.
Then we’ll sip spirits provided by Nine Banded Whiskey, a craft distillery in Austin, Texas dedicated to making whiskeys in the style of American whiskeys long before Prohibition-era. Nine Banded celebrates the great American tradition of whiskey making.
It’s your chance to enjoy the best of the studio and the distillery, all in one event! Time of the event is from 2 – 4 pm, on Saturday, May 12.
About the Whiskey
is a creative blend of fine barrel-aged whiskeys made in the classic American tradition. They blend oak barrel-aged whiskeys with limestone-filtered spring water found in the Texas Hill Country, to create an approachable whiskey that at 90-proof, has a subtle bite and a laid-back finish. This smooth finish can be attributed to limestone, which raises the PH balance of the water and amplifies both the flavor and aroma profile. Nine Banded Whiskey also likes to think it enriches our whiskey with some Texas soul.
My clients often tell me they don’t want veneered furniture. Instead, they want real “solid wood”. I understand that concern, but the truth is veneered furniture can actually be quite good. Like so many things in life, the devil is in the details.
Unfortunately one of the “details” is the veneer itself – and the substrate to which it is applied. Today’s mass marketed furniture is made with paper-thin veneers as thin as 1/64”. Worse still, they are often applied over particle board. Particle board is simply sawdust and glue that is pressed into a flat substrate, and so is sometimes called “solid wood.” The extremely thin veneer and poor quality of particle board combine to make furniture that cannot stand up to the rigors of daily use.
Higher quality veneers are somewhat thicker. They range from 1/16” to 1/8”, and when applied to a more substantial substrate, can last for generations. Sadly, this is almost never found anymore on modern store-bought furniture.
While we normally use actual solid wood (with no veneer) in the pieces we make in our studio, there are times we do use veneer. Why? Several reasons:
1. Solid wood is always in a state of expanding or contracting. It expands in warmer, more humid weather, and contracts in cooler, drier conditions. This can create “wood movement” problems in cabinet doors, for example, causing them to stick in the summer. By using veneer over a quality plywood substrate, the door becomes more stable.
2. Sometimes a piece of wood has beautiful grain patterns that we want to repeat across a surface, making the right and left grain mirror images of each other, like pages of a book. By slicing the wood into thinner sheets, that pattern can be repeated in a “bookmatched” process.
3. Veneer can be bent and formed into shapes not possible with thicker wood.
We cut our own veneer for some projects which typically is just a hair less than 1/8” thick. Other times we buy veneer from boutique marketers who can provide a fantastic selection of beautiful wood that is somewhat thicker than the mass marketed variety. Either way, these are durable, beautiful veneers that we apply to high-quality substrates of solid wood, laminated solid wood, or specialty substrates.
So which is better: veneer or solid wood? Of course, there isn’t any single answer to this question. But by understanding some of the basics of each, and more to the point, by understanding how some furniture sellers use lower quality manufacturing techniques, buyers can be prepared to ask questions that will lead to informed choices.
I’m often asked if wood is a sustainable product. People are naturally concerned about deforestation, particularly in the rainforest. So here’s a short primer on the subject. Periodically I’ll revisit this topic with additional comments.
So, is wood a sustainable product? The really short answer is, “it depends”. When it comes to commercial logging, most North American forests are pretty well managed. The landowners here realize that their land has the highest value when there is a long-term plan to manage the forest to allow ongoing harvesting of trees. If you are buying hardwoods from North American forests, you can be reasonably certain that the forest remained viable even after your particular tree was harvested.
Unfortunately, there is a very different situation in many “rainforest” countries. There, forests are often clear-cut without regard to any long-term forest management. The result is that the ecosystem is seriously disrupted. After the forest is cleared, a very different – and less sustainable – mix of plants & animals comes in to fill the void. The result is an unhealthy forest in decline.
Not that all wood coming from the rainforest is harvested that way. Some countries have signed binding treaties that require forests to be better managed. Some forests are certified by various independent third parties as to practicing good forestry management techniques (e.g. “FSC” and “SFI” wood). I’ve run across small operations that locate “blowdown” trees in the Amazon (trees toppled by storms), which are removed while leaving other trees intact. There certainly are some well-managed forests in these areas, but it’s not always easy for buyers to know good from bad.
There is a growing trend now to use wood that comes from alternative sources. There are a lot of alternative sources. Blowdown trees, “urban forest” trees, and reclaimed or repurposed wood are examples.
These alternative sources are clearly sustainable, and they often yield wood that is incredibly beautiful and very different from typical commercial lumber yards. Uncommonly beautiful wood, and no net loss of tree canopy. As a bonus, this wood is diverted from the waste stream which often means less waste is sent to landfills.
You don’t need to worry about being an expert yourself when looking for sustainable products. Simply ask the salesperson or business owner about the origin of the wood. A few simple questions can help you understand a lot about the sustainability of the materials in your purchase.