Veneering Over Solid Wood

Article - December 8, 2008

This week’s question comes from Martin. Let’s see what he has to say:

“I have a few boards of tiger maple and would like it to use it as veneer. I plan on building a chest of drawers in maple. I want to use solid wood for my veneer substrate for the top and drawer fronts. I am planning on cutting my veneer 1/8 thick to make it easier to work with.

Here are a few of my questions:
~ If I use maple veneer over maple core, do I need to veneer both sides to prevent cupping?
~ If I use maple veneer over pine core or other wood, do I veneer both sides to prevent cupping?
~ If I use a different wood for the core, do I need to consider the difference in wood movement?
~ I need to orient the veneer grain with the core grain, right? My veneers will be from 4-8 inch wide. In the building of the top and drawer fronts, I plan on veneering each veneer board to a equal width core. Afterward I will do the lamination. Does this sounds like a good plan? Many thanks!”

And this was my response: “Hey Martin. I have never really veneered over solid wood, so my knowledge of this process is purely academic. I emailed Glen Huey to get his take on it. I also asked him a few questions of my own, including: should you orient the grain perpendicular to the core in an effort to “lock down” the grain and stabilize the board. I know this was done quite a bit in the past, but with the high quality ply material we have these days, the technique has fallen out of favor. Anyway, here’s Glen’s response:

I wouldn’t try to lock down movement on these boards. If that was my aim, I would use plywood as my core and apply veneer to both sides. Using a thicker core of wood with an 1/8″ veneer placed with the grain direction is the way I would approach this, then anticipate and account for wood movement. I agree that movement should be close to regular hardwood. If you choose to lock down the movement using solid woods, I would think the addition of the cross grain orientation would shown at the edges of the piece. If that’s not an issue, why not return to plywood as a substrate?

There is much talk about veneering the back face to reduce cupping. My thoughts are you should evaluate where the stock is to be used. If these pieces are drawer fronts, I see no need for inside face veneer due to the dovetails holding the pieces in orientation. If I were using this setup as case sides I would turn to inside face veneer.

As for his last statement, I don’t see the advantage to veneering to individual boards prior to assembling a panel, unless veneering is done in a small bag of some kind. It seems like more work and a bit wasteful of what must be very good veneer.”