Why use sawn veneer?
Furniture clad with veneer 1 mm to 2 mm thick, will be sent that much further into the future. Versus items made with commercially manufactured veneers, which are sliced to the thickness of craft paper. Furthermore, the logs used in manufacturing today’s veneers literally go through hell. Logs are steamed or boiled for several days, this breaks down the chemistry, specifically – lignin. During the veneer slicing at the mill, a steel bar exerts pressure onto the wood just ahead of the knife, crushing the wood cells. This can sometimes cause damage in softer woods, know as “knife check” and may show up years later in the finished product. Sawing veneer, on the other hand, is absolutely non-damaging to the wood. Veneer sawn from air-dried lumber is simply of the highest quality.
Before the advent of mechanization, veneers were cut by two man teams of highly skilled veneer sawyers, shown above. These two-man-teams were relied upon to supply workshops with precious veneers.
To execute this feat of craftsmanship, the sawyers would start by clamping a log vertically into a large vice. Guided only by hand and eye, they would saw slices of veneer that measured anywhere from, 1 mm to 5 mm thick. This hand-sawn veneer had subtle, unintentional variations (as would be expected), which the cabinetmaker or marqueter could easily scrape or plane smooth.
As the Industrial Revolution drew near, craftsmen were seeking to make processes more efficient, as well as increase quality through the use of new machinery. In the early 19th century, a cabinetmaker by the name of Mr.Cochot invented a water-powered machine dedicated to sawing veneers. This machine operated at a speed of up to 250 strokes per minute to ensure that the cutting remained very consistent. Wood was clamped to a vertical slide that was lowered into a pit, 4 meters deep. As the saw’s reciprocating action was actuated, every couple of saw-strokes raised the log gently upward into the cutting blade.
In France, there are still a few of these machines currently producing excellent sawn veneers. Aaron’s shop is equipped with a $15,000.00 band saw do to the same work with exceptional and equal results. Aaron has sawn thousands of sheets of veneer by utilizing carbide-tipped band saw blades; and a computer that controls the blade’s speed. Aaron also calls on Patrick George, a fourth generation sawyer outside Paris.