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Veneer: versatile appearance – versatile applications

Poto: IFN, Roser AG, Gehri AG

Veneer is one of the oldest means of decoration for high-quality surfaces. In ancient Egypt, inexpensive substrate timbers were covered with thin layers of select high-grade wood; at that time, particularly bird’s eye maple. The various tree species produce highly differentiated veneer patterns, which sometimes even vary greatly within one species. And they even have stories to tell. Take, for example, the veneer made from Venetian lagoon oak. The oak posts used for this purpose are driven into the seabed to support jetties or serve as channel markers. They are then exposed to the harsh conditions of the sea for between 10 and 25 years, taking on a historic look from the effects of the waves, salt and molluscs. The appearance of a veneer can, however, also be influenced by human intervention, through special processing techniques such as the “truffled” veneer from Mehling & Wiesmann. The company deliberately seeks out beech trunks that have been attacked by fungi and, through the use of targeted fungus modification, creates markings and discolorations in the wood along the entire length of the trunk. The marble-like wood with its distinct grain exhibits a particularly vivid contrast. In this way, unique furniture can be created from veneer thanks to its highly varied looks and delicate feel.

Photo: Pia Kintrup

Precisely because of this combination, Tim zum Hoff decided to use walnut veneer for his bureau “Kabinett”. The special thing about his object is that the bureau’s lighting is controlled by brushing a hand gently across its surface. “The colour of the walnut veneer is a good fit with the lighting effect in the compartments”, says zum Hoff, explaining his choice of material. “The natural grain of the wood also contrasts nicely with the linear design of the bureau.” In this piece, the veneer is therefore a surface finish and a control element rolled into one. It also serves two functions at once: the user feels the surface, which is made pleasantly tactile by its finely textured structure, and can also influence the lighting conditions.

Photo: Lasfera

With its veneer lamps, the Cologne furniture manufacturer Lasfera is even closer to achieving symbiosis between veneer and light. Here, the natural material is used as both the shade and the base and can take on substantial dimensions. “For the lamps, we use veneers made of oak, maple and walnut”, explains designer and Managing Director of Lasfera, Henri Garbers. “The classic look of the lamps is timeless, and the beautiful veneer is shown to best effect when left in its natural condition. It is very important to us that all of the components for the lamps are produced in Germany”, remarks Garbers, whose lighting objects are available as floor, table and ceiling lamps.

Photo: LignoTUBE

But veneer, which is intrinsically fragile, can also show a completely different side – as a highly stable wooden tube of up to six metres in length and a diameter of up to twelve centimetres. In theory, it sounds quite simple: you take delicate veneer in the form of veneer rolls, shape it into tubes, glue them with industrial adhesive and you get a highly stable wooden tube. “But putting these steps into practice was not quite that straightforward”, explains Curt Beck, Managing Director of the Dresden-based company LignoTUBE technologies. “It took us almost three years to get the product ready to go into series production.” For the most part, the tubes are composed of ash, oak or walnut from Europe and North America. “The weight-related stability of the LignoTUBEs is similar to that of aluminium. But at the end of the day, it is still wood – meaning that we are actually dealing with a new class of materials: wooden tubes”, explains Beck. The result is that veneer is not only suitable for surface finishes, but also for a table underframe, for example.

Yet even though veneers are primarily associated with furniture, the material can be used in a variety of ways. This way, everyday consumer goods can become unique lifestyle products. The possibilities are virtually limitless when it comes to decorating car interiors, or designing eyewear, snowboards, bathtubs, mouse mats or even insoles for shoes.