What is veneer?

The veneer definition describes it as a thin layer of finely sliced wood that is uniform in thickness. Veneer is typically applied to panels of another material – such as particle board, MDF or even wood – which means it offers the visual appeal and warmth of real wood at a cheaper price-point.

So, what is wood veneer? In short, it is the most cost-effective and sustainable way to incorporate real-wood into any design project.

Is veneer only available in timber or are there other types of veneer?

As the veneer definition indicates, veneer is a timber product. Nevertheless, it utilises many different types of timber and different processes to create a number of different effects.

While in natural timber veneer the wooden sheets are made from a single log, in reconstructed veneer the  wood veneer sheets are produced from a mix of logs.  Natural timber veneer is 100% natural and so the pattern and grain aren’t altered in any way. Reconstructed wood veneer – whilst still using real wood – is re-manufactured and processed to achieve a desired look, which can emulate natural wood grains and cuts. Reconstructed wood veneer sheets offer great consistency when it comes to colour and repeat grain patterns.

And what is wood veneer that has been retoned? In case of retoned wood veneer light wood is dyed to produce a wider range of colour options. Because the wood is coloured through its entire thickness, it can be sanded without the risk of affecting the dye.

What is pre finished veneer?

Pre finished veneer is a real wood veneer that comes in a ready-to-use laminate form. The face of the pre finished boards is finished with a clear coating, for example UV cured film, melamine film or acrylic polyurethane. The variety of films the veneer is finished with determines its resistance to scratches, fading and moisture or yellowing.

Pre finished wood veneer can be applied to a standard set of substrates and offers more scratch resistance compared to standard polished veneer products.

What are the different types of wood veneer available?

Because veneers use only a fine sheet of real wood, there’s a wide variety of species that can be used in to achieve the desired look. So, what is timber veneer made with? Australian designers and specifiers can choose from over 100 native and imported varieties and species of veneers.

Some of the popular species of hardwood veneer sheets are oak varieties (such as American oak veneer or Tasmanian oak veneer), blackwood varieties (such as blackwood veneer and Tasmanian blackwood veneer), jarrah veneer and blackbutt timber veneer to name a few. Because veneer is only a fine slice of wood, even species that would be expensive when purchased as solid wood become more accessible, such as rosewood veneer which is much more accessible than solid Brazilian rosewood.

Veneers also differ when it comes to the type of substrate used. Raw wood veneer has no backing, and it can be used with both sides facing up. It can be joined up to make larger pieces, forming laid-up veneer. Next up, available in large sizes and sheets, is paper-backed veneer. Backed with paper, this type of veneer is less likely to crack and offers a bigger surface. Driven by concern for the natural habitat and growing in popularity is phenolic backed veneer. it is water-resistant and can be bent which, like paper backed veneer, makes it less likely to crack on curves. Real wood veneer can also be applied to wood and is called ‘wood on wood’ or ‘2-ply’.

Plywood veneer is a popular choice because it is inexpensive and versatile. The plywood itself is a manufactured wood panel produced by gluing a few veneers together, making it much lighter and sag-resistant than other materials – and doesn’t require much surface preparation when applying the surface layer of veneer.

Similarly, MDF veneer is a common specification. MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is a waste-wood product which is, in essence, a combination of sawdust and glue fused using heat and pressure. It is made with recycled wood which makes it environmentally friendly, plus – in contrast to solid wood – it will not expand and contract due to variation in temperature or humidity. MDF veneer is a popular way to achieve a natural, and often expensive, timber look in a cost-effective and reliable way.

How is timber veneer made?

Real wood veneer is manufactured by peeling or slicing wood from solid timber logs. The trunk is debarked and brought to a uniform moisture level through steaming or soaking to soften the wood to prevent any tearing in the process. The wood is then cut down into required lengths.

The peeling process utilises a veneer lathe which rotates the wooden log against a peeler, creating a long sheet of wood. In the process of slicing, the log is placed on a veneer slicer and moved back and forth against a blade to produce fine slices of wood.  Wood veneer sheets can be then applied to the panels of another material – such as particle board, MDF or even wood.

What is timber veneer thickness range? In Australia and New Zealand, wood veneer panels are cut to the standard of approximately 0.5 and 0.85mm thickness, but this can be adjusted depending on bespoke project demands.

Based on the manufacturing method and the angle at which the wood has been sliced, wood veneer is available in a variety of grain patterns. Some of the most common ones are rotary cut veneer, quarter cut veneer and crown cut veneer.

The rotary cut follows the annual growth rings and produces a bold grain. The quarter cut veneer is produced by cutting the log into quarters, called flitches, which are sliced across at angles aligned with the growth rings, providing a uniform vertical grain. Crown cut veneers are created by cutting the log in half and slicing the halves straight across, with the cut parallel to the centre of the log. The crown cut is characterized by a strong grain pattern in the central part of the veneer that gets more linear towards the edges.

What is veneer used for?

Real wood veneer is an incredibly versatile and functional product. It can be used in a wide variety of instances including parquet floors, ceiling and wall panelling, stairs, doors and frames.

Real wood veneer is also very popular when it comes to furniture. Whether it is a shelf, a joinery or timber veneer kitchen cabinets – timber veneer is a reliable way to bring the warmth and elegance of real wood into any interior. The ability to specify the surface layer on either one (G1S) of both sides (G2S) of the panel is useful in assuring veneer works well with a specific project.

With availability of DIY products like iron on timber veneer sheets, incorporating veneer into any interior has never been easier. And once one learns how to laminate wood, turning plywood into a stylish wooden piece of furniture can be easily done with a veneer of choice, glue and available substrate. The process not only elevates the look of the piece but adds durability and water resistance – a perfect combination for kitchen countertops. Nevertheless, veneer shouldn’t be confused with laminate – below is a quick comparison between timber veneer vs laminate.

 Timber veneer vs laminate: how do they compare?

While timber veneer consists of a fine surface layer of real wood and base made with a different, often less expensive, material such as plywood, laminate is a decorative surface that is made to look like wood. However, it is often made of plastic or paper and bonded to the composite base.

Real wood veneer is a natural material, hence it offers a more varied look. It can also be more expensive than laminate because the crafting process takes more time. Laminate, on the other hand, is durable and also both scratch and heat-resistant.

Overall, when comparing timber veneer vs laminate, it is important to remember that laminate cannot truly replicate the genuine variations and true wood grain of timber veneer

How much does veneer cost?

Even though timber veneer isn’t as cheap as laminate, it is generally cheaper than solid wood. That said, a high-end veneer can be priced higher than lower quality solid wood.

There is a wide price range per square metre as the price of wood veneer will depend on the species and cut of the wood used, treatment, the use of substrates and size. So, what is veneer pricing looking like? Because of that, the prices of veneer depend on the backing. Generally one can expect to pay anywhere between $10 and $100 per sheet.

Where can you buy wood veneer from?

Timber veneer is an extremely popular material and there’s a variety of sources it can be purchased from, such as online stores or even the local Bunnings. While wood veneer can be acquired anywhere, it is best to go directly to a reputable supplier.

With established natural timber veneer suppliers in Sydney, Melbourne, and other major cities across Australia, the ability to have an informed conversation with an expert and request access to samples prior to making any purchase decision is a great help in ensuring the right timber veneer product is selected. 

 The best timber veneer products currently available in Australia

With such a wide range of available wood veneer, expert help can help navigate the process. In the meantime, we look at some of the best timber veneer products currently available in Australia to assist with the research.

  1. Blackbutt High Feature 182.32
    This pre finished wood veneer is a Blackbutt veneer made from an exceptionally strong Australian hardwood. Made even more durable thanks to the acrylic polyurethane coating and 18mm MDF substrate, this light tone blonde veneer is a great addition to any interior.

  2. Beam Wood Oak Natural 169.02
    This European origin timber veneer is sliced from old weathered oak beams giving it beautiful brown colouring and brushed texture. This rustic and full of charm look veneer comes in pressed board size 3000mm x 1200 and works both as G1S and G2S.

  3. Sawn Oak Limed 168.42
    This European Oak pre finished veneer not only looks but also feels like lumber fresh from under the saw. A slightly more rough and ready look offers a lot of character and the bright tonality highlights the textured finish.

  4. Vibrant Oak Grey Wash 163.14
    A part of the Vibrant line, Vibrant Oak Grey Wash is a natural mixture of crown and quarter cut Oak veneer. This pre finished natural timber veneer also comes in Vibrant Oak Cool White, Vibrant Oak Dark Grey and Vibrant Oak Silver Grey for an elegant and modern interior.

  5. Nero 191.54
    Nero 191.54 is made with European oak and is a stunning retoned timber veneer that offers colouring not normally found in timber, while it still retains its natural texture. To create this type of veneer, natural timber goes to a colour toning process that alters its pigmentation. The deep, dark tones give plenty of character to this natural timber veneer meaning it will create impact in any interior.

  6. Oak Rift Swamp 172.27
    This pre finished wood veneer is another example of a beautiful stained natural Oak real wood veneer with a unique colouring and depth of grain. Following a colour toning process that alters pigmentation, the veneer is immersed in liquid which removes the pigment and allows for a new tonality to be created – giving this veneer a colour that doesn’t normally appear in nature.

  7. Tasmanian Blackwood 183.21
    Tasmanian Blackwood is a hardwood which is native to Tasmanian forests. In spite of the wood’s name, this pre finished wood veneer has a deep golden brown grain. it is a perfect timber for delicate craftwork and the matte open pore finish on the veneer highlights the natural beauty of the wood.

  8. Smoked Oak Limed 179.42
    This white and grey coloured Oak natural timber veneer  is manufactured by slicing laminated planks of 30mm thick timber into sheets. The process of ‘smoking’ not only changes the surface colour, but makes it resistant to ageing and more elastic which, in turn, is easier to work with – making this pre finished wood veneer a stylish and reliable choice.

  9. Alpine Ash 185.67
    Alpine Ash, otherwise known as gum-topped stringybark and woollybutt in Victoria, is a hardwood unique to Southeastern Australia. Alpine Ash 185.67 is a pre finished veneer making it easy to incorporate into any interior.

  10. Walnut Crown Cut 392.02
    Also known as Black Walnut, American Walnut is a dark hardwood species with a deep, distinct colouring. The clear finish really lets the dark tones of this natural timber veneer come to life while the acrylic coating makes the veneer more durable.