Wood Veneering Misunderstood
What do you think of when you hear the word “veneer?” If the term calls to mind furniture masterpieces with complicated marquetry designs or criss-crossing patterns of inlay, then you may think of wood veneering as an exalted technique reserved for only the most skilled woodworkers. On the other hand, if you were educated in the solid wood construction school of woodworking, you might think of veneering as low grade substitute for the “real thing.”
The truth is, neither view gives a very accurate picture of the craft. Veneering is simply a method for decorating the surface of one material with another more attractive material. In the hands of an expert, it can produce some of the most remarkable effects in woodworking, but there’s also plenty of room for beginners. Most veneering techniques, in fact, aren’t all that complicated, and with just a few hand tools and with a little know-how you can have perfect results right from the beginning.
The idea that no self-respecting woodworker would stoop to the “deceptive” practice of veneering is another unfortunate misconception. Veneered surfaces made with modern techniques and materials are every bit as durable and attractive as solid wood, and in many situations veneering offers considerable advantages over solid wood construction. Substrates for veneer, for example, can be chosen for their dimensional stability and other construction properties rather than their appearance. And once they actually know a little about veneering, most woodworkers come to see it as a respectable and extremely useful technique.
Copyright © 2009, Rockler Companies, Inc.
How a finish will stand up to use isn’t the only consideration, of course. The finish should be reasonably easy to apply, and most importantly should look good when it dries. There is a wide range in the appearance and ease of application among currently available products, and unfortunately, the failings of a few have generated a couple of common misconceptions. The first says that waterborne finishes are all but impossible to spray on. The truth is, many waterborne finishes spray exceptionally well. In fact, certain waterborne finishes have to be sprayed on for acceptable results.
The second misconception holds that waterborne finishes all have a hazy, bluish appearance when dry, and therefore aren’t a good choice for darker colored woods. Here again, it really depends on the finish. In reality, most waterborne finishes dry almost perfectly clear. What’s missing, for most woodworkers, is the amber tint that they’re used to getting from all oil-based “clear” finishes. In other words, most people have come to associate the rich, amber color that most oil finishes add to the natural color of wood with the “correct” result.
Looked at another way, waterborne finishes actually have an advantage over traditional oil-based finishes: They give you more control over the final appearance of your projects. In some situations – when you want to maintain the color of light colored woods, for example - the best appearance a finish can provide is none at all. In other words, the finish should be perfectly clear, and a waterborne will get you closer than anything else. In other situations, where the familiar amber color of an oil finish is a benefit, you have a couple of options: Most waterborne finishes can be tinted to the desired color. Better still, you can use Rockler’s WunderCote. WunderCote is an easy to apply wipe on waterborne finish that comes pre-tinted to emulate the color of a light amber oil-based finish.