Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Veneering & Inlay

This past Sunday, I took a class taught by Jonathan Benson on Veneering & Inlay. Jon is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design with pieces exhibited in over 40 galleries nationwide, has taught college level woodworking for over ten years, has written for publications such as Woodshop News and Woodwork Magazine and has recently written a book entitled Woodworker's Guide to Veneering & Inlay.

Jon explained the different ways that veneer is cut from a log, depending on how it will be used, and the benefits to using veneer over solid wood. One reason in particular is sustainability. Wood cut into veneer can cover a whole lot more surface area than its solid wood equivalent. He explained bookmatching, 4-way (and more) matching, arranging pie shapes, cutting diamond shapes, and applying veneer to curved surfaces.

Veneering began in ancient Egypt, 5,500 years ago, where thin pieces were cut from a tree with an adze and made smooth with stones. Even though the veneer was 1/4" thick, it made the best use of the wood that was scarce and precious to the Egyptians.

Jon demystified veneering and inlay for me and demonstrated just how easy it is. I made my first inlay, using bookmatched walnut and a piece of birdseye maple, and although I haven't glued it to a substrate yet, it came together with little effort.

In his book, Jon explains exactly how to work with veneer; its history; how it is produced from a log; how to repair it; how to arrange it for spectacular geometric patterns; how to make a jig which utilizes a mirror to determine the best cut; how to make a jig that secures the veneer while you square the edge; how to create inlay, parquetry, and marquetry; how to work with curved projects; how to make your own veneer; and how to build a curved mirror frame, along with step-by-step instructions.

Working with veneer not only opens up a whole new aspect to woodworking, it enables you to work with wood which in its solid form might be cost prohibitive, and allows you to feel good about helping to sustain our forests.


Vic Hubbard said...

Cool, Maybe one of the future projects you share with us will be a veneered piece. I'm a big fan of veneer. You afford to use incredibly beautiful woods and still be environmentally friendly! His book sounds like a good companion to a DVD I got from Paul Schurch.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for this post! I think you will love working with veneers, as the possibilities are infinite! Do you think you will be resawing your own veneers now?

The piece you created with the book matched walnut and the birdseye maple is wonderful!

Kari Hultman said...

Al, buying veneer doesn't seem to be all that costly when you consider the amount of work it takes to make your own. I suppose if you were going to make a large, veneered piece, it might be worth all the effort.

Vic, thanks for Paul Schurch's name. I wasn't familiar with him.

Woodfired! said...

Resawing your own is very handy when your piece also has solid components and you want to match the wood.

I agree with Al. Your piece is very cool - rather cosmic with the opposing wheels. Love the colour of the walnut.

Kari Hultman said...

I'm really glad I took the class. And I may someday cut my own veneer, but baby steps for now....