Objections considered - Burr Veneers - Saw-cut and Knife-cut Veneers - Laying with Caul - Wooden Cauls - Metal Cauls - Care and Preparation of Veneers - Preparation of Wood for Veneering on - Light coloured Veneers - Cleaning up Veneered Work - Laying with Hammer - Veneering Hammer - Blisters - Veneering on End Grain - Inlaid Veneers - Veneering Curved Surfaces.
VENEERING is hardly practised now to the same extent that it was at one time, but it still forms a very important part of the cabinet-maker's work, and no one could be considered a proficient unless able to do it thoroughly. The simple notion that any one can stick two pieces of wood together with glue is a very crude idea of veneering, for there are many details which must be regarded if the work is to be thorough. Merely to glue the wood and veneer and then stick them together anyhow is by no means sufficient, for such work could not stand.
Veneering, in many quarters, is regarded with suspicion, but when properly done there is nothing objectionable about it. It is sometimes assumed, but not by cabinet-makers themselves, that the principal object of veneering work is on account of its supposed cheapness. One writer goes the length of saying that it is never worth while to veneer with mahogany, as the solid wood can be used at very little more cost. Now, if he had known what he was writing about he would have been aware that it is quite possible to have anything made of solid mahogany at considerably less than it would cost to have it veneered. A really fine veneer may be, and often is, more valuable than thicker stuff with less figure in it. Then, in addition to the cost of materials, there is the labour to be reckoned for, so that it will be seen that veneered work does not necessarily mean cheap work. When a valuable veneer is used it is seldom laid on poor wood as a foundation, for no cabinet-maker would think of using such. A choice Spanish veneer, for instance, would be laid on mahogany, and it is, in such a case, not wrong to consider anything so made as being of solid mahogany, for it really is so. The solid is covered with a choice thin wood, and no one with the smallest knowledge of the subject would expect to find the wood throughout the same as the veneer. Many of the most beautiful woods cannot be used except in the form of veneer, so that if we are to listen to those who object to veneering these would have to be entirely neglected. Among the objections raised to veneering, one sometimes hears that it is used to conceal defective workmanship, that joints covered with veneer are weak, and so on. As a matter of fact, the work is done equally well by all respectable cabinet-makers whether the work is veneered or not. Veneer may be used to conceal bad workmanship, but only those who would 'scamp' in other forms would resort to such trickery. It is by no means the rule to find that veneered furniture is put together in any inferior way than would be practised in making things of similar quality without veneer.
Of course, veneer may be used for the purpose of making cheap furniture, and often is employed in preference to solid wood for the express purpose of reducing cost of production. With it a thing made principally of pine may be as handsome in appearance as if it were made of mahogany or walnut, and for practical purposes is sufficiently useful. To say that a comparatively choice wood should not be used on a cheaper and less beautiful one seems absurd. Veneer certainly allows many to surround themselves with good-looking furniture instead of plain pine. Naturally it costs more than if made in the latter solely, but is not by any means so expensive as solid (say) mahogany or oak, unless perhaps these are of the commonest description. In any case, veneering may be regarded as a ready means of adorning furniture at a comparatively cheap rate, and so placing beautiful objects within the reach of many who could not otherwise afford them, and surely there can be nothing wrong in doing this. Mind, I am not arguing that beauty, or, perhaps I should rather say, appearance, is desirable at the expense of sound construction, only I wish to protest against the assumption that this is not consistent with or commonly found in connexion with veneer. That this is sometimes, indeed often, found improperly laid, is not to be denied, but then it is the workmanship which is to be blamed, and not the entire principle of veneering indiscriminately. On the whole the cabinet-maker need have no hesitation in using veneer whenever it can be employed with advantage, taking the same care over the construction as if only solid wood were used, and laying the veneers properly. The wood serving as the foundation, whatever its kind, must be good and sound, free from knots and shakes or cracks, and, in fact, just such as would be used if it were not to be veneered, except in the matter of figuring. As woods which cannot be used in the solid have been referred to, it may be said they include all of the 'burr' class. In these the markings are very elaborate, and the kind most familiar is probably burr walnut. Amboyna is another of the same sort, of a very beautifully marked deep yellow or light brown colour. Thuja is somewhat similar, but deeper in tone, and with strongly marked eyes or knots. Pollard oak of the choicest kind is also usable only in veneers. Roughly speaking, most of the furniture woods can be had in veneer form as well as solid, the exceptions being, of course, the cheapest kinds, such as pine, whitewood, etc. Not only the choicer varieties of each kind are cut into veneers, but the plain ones as well for common furniture. Thus we find veneers of ordinary American walnut.
Veneers are of two kinds, known as saw-cut and knife-cut. The latter are much thinner than the former, and are generally plain in figure, so that they are much lower in price. It is rare to find choice material in the form of knife-cut, so that when anything good is to be made, the saw-cut should be preferred. Even this is of no great thickness, and is to be had in a larger range of quality than the other. It is, perhaps, rather too much to say that knife - cut should never be used, but it certainly cannot be recommended for general purposes. Unless otherwise specified, it is generally understood that veneers are of the sawn variety. As it has been said that knife-cut is not to be recommended, it may be as well to add that this remark does not apply to burr veneer.