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Last Thursday and Friday I was in Beaufort, N.C, as part of a panel of judges for the Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge. The folks from Veneer Tech were gracious hosts, and the results of the contest will be announced in August at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta. After the winners are revealed I will be writing about some of them; we viewed an interesting array of furniture, cabinets and other veneered work. Before the judging began, we toured the facilities of Atlantic Veneer and Veneer Tech. In the next few weeks I’ll be sharing photos of the process of manufacturing veneer.

Atlantic Veneer is a slicing operation. Logs of maple, cherry and white oak that were harvested in Pennsylvania and New York are unloaded in a yard the size of several football fields. The logs are kept under a spray of water to keep them from drying out before they are debarked and sliced lengthwise. Then the log halves are soaked in vats to saturate them and moved to the slicing machines.

The machines take slices of about half a millimeter thick off the logs , that’s about 50 slices per inch of thickness. Veneers from individual logs stay together and in order throughout the process of drying, trimming and grading. This ensures that veneers can be matched for grain and color. One of the main uses for veneer of this quality is in architectural paneling where this kind of matching distinguishes high-quality work.

A few miles up the road from Atlantic Veneer is the Veneer Tech facility. Veneer Tech takes the individual leaves of veneer and splices them together into faces suitable for applying to cores for making hardwood plywood, or for sale as backed veneers. The plant has the capability of processing about 6 million square feet of veneer a month, all of it carefully graded and sorted to maximize appearance and yield. The stack in the photo above is approximately 20,000 square feet of sapele waiting for a final trim before being spliced into sheets.

This is a small portion of the finished product; each stack is a different grade or species of material ready to be processed in house for backed veneer sheets, or shipped to a customer who will apply the faces to cores of plywood, particle board or MDF. In future posts, I’ll be going into more detail about the stages between logs and finished faces.

– Robert W. Lang

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