Veneer for Fine Boxes

veneersFine boxes can be created in both solid hardwoods and natural hardwood veneers, depending upon the requirements of the design.

Veneers are very thin slices of hardwood usually thinner than 3mm.  They are typically glued on to solid hardwood, or a substrate of good quality hardwood ply or medium density fibre board.

Hardwood veneers are often preferable to solid hardwoods for a variety of reasons:

  1. The finest and rarest timbers are normally converted to veneer, this increases the availability of the most desirable timbers.
  2. Converting timber maximises the use of a tree and reduces waste so is more environmentally sound.
  3. All wood moves to a degree with changes in humidity, this can affect the types of construction possible in solid timber.  Curved work is particularly suited to laminating and veneering.
  4. Certain patterns and details can only be constructed with veneers such as a traditional sunburst.
  5. Certain timbers, especially some burrs, are impossible to work with in solid as they will fall apart.

Veneering is an ancient art going back to the early Egyptians who used sawn veneers on their furniture.  Nowadays, veneers are cut by slicing or unpeeling logs.  Each method produces different grain effects from the same type of timber.

Interesting patterns can be achieved with veneers by decoratively matching them in various ways: book matching (similar to opening the veneer leaves as one would open a book), slip matching (keeping the leaves with the same face up), radial matching (leaves are chosen in book or slip matching and then cut into wedges and joined). There are many types of match available including starburst effects which you may have seen on more exquisite tables.
bookmatch-veneerOn the left is an example of book matched American Black Walnut, folded on the sap (lighter) side of the veneer.

Parquetry is the art of making repeating geometric patterns with wood, for which veneers are particularly suitable.  An example would be a wooden chess board.

Marquetry is the art of making pictures with wood, again veneers are particularly suitable for this.  Some of the marquetry that I undertake is to produce a client’s initials set within the lid of their box.
cross-bandingCross banding uses veneer to create a wide border effect around the edge of furniture at 90 degrees to the general grain pattern.

Stringing demarcates two areas of veneer and involves inlaying a thin string of veneer. Layers of coloured veneers can be joined to create strings and wider inlays vith variously designed patterns.

It is striking to realise that most of the world’s greatest treasures of furniture are veneered. You can see many examples in the V&A Museum in London, the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg and in others of the best museums around the world.

Below is a list of exotic hardwood veneers that I can work with to produce a fine handmade box.  Please note that the colours and grain patterns are representative of the veneers, as this is an organic material there will be differences in the selected veneers.

Exotic Veneer

Amboyna Burr

pterocarpus spp

amboyna burr for hardwood boxes

Varies in colour from yellow golden-brown to red


malus sylvestris

apple for hardwood boxes

Varies in colour from pinkish to light/mid brown, darker in older mature trees

Ash Burr

fraxinus excelsior

ash burr for hardwood boxes

Darker than normal ash with patterns of complex swirls and knots

Ash Burr, Olive

fraxinus excelsior

olive ash burr for hardwood boxes

Similar in colour to olive ash but with patterns of complex swirls and knots

Birch, Masur

betula alba

masur birch for hardwood boxes

Creamy white wood with contrasting brown flecks

Bubinga (Kevasingo)

guibourtia demeusei

bubinga kevazingo for hardwood boxes

Varies from pink to vivid red with red to purple streaks. The grain is normally interlocked

Camphor Burr

cinnamomum camphora

camphor burr for hardwood boxes

Varies from yellowish brown to a warm reddish brown, with darker markings running in random directions

Chestnut Burr

castanea sativa

chestnut burr for hardwood boxes

Elm Burr

ulmus spp

elm burr for hardwood boxes

Eucalyptus Burr

eucalyptus spp

eucalyptus burr for hardwood boxes

Goncales Alves

astronium fraxinifolium

goncalo alves for hardwood boxes

Orange and brown streaks with black stripes

Imbuia Burr

phoebe porosa

imbuya burr for hardwood boxes


dalbergia cearensis

kingwood for hardwood boxes

Normally a violet brown colour with light and darker streaks

Laurel, Indian

terminalia tomentosa

indian laurel for hardwood boxes

Varies from yellowish brown and pinkish brown to a dark brown, usually with darker streaks and some mottling

Louro Faia (Silky Oak)

roupala brasiliensis

silky oak for hardwood boxes

Madrona Burr

arbutus menziesii

madrone burr for hardwood boxes

Magnolia Burr

liriodendron tulipifera

magnolia burr for hardwood boxes

Maple, Fiddleback

acer saccharum

fiddleback maple for hardwood boxes

Maple, Birds-Eye

acer saccharum

birdseye maple for hardwood boxes

Maple, Quilted

acer macrophyllum

quilted maple for hardwood boxes

Maple Burr

acer macrophyllum

maple burr for hardwood boxes

Myrtle Burr

umbellularia californica

myrtle burr for hardwood boxes

Varies from light brown to a slightly darker brown

Planetree Burr

platinus acerifolia

planetree burr for hardwood boxes


prunus domestica

plum for hardwood boxes

Normally reddish brown with lighter or darker streaks

Poplar Burr

populus spp

poplar burr for hardwood boxes

Normally a biscuit colour with red brown pips and burrs. Can include a ripple effect

Rosewood, Indian

dalbergia latifolia

indian rosewood for hardwood boxes

Varies from yellowish brown through reddish brown to a dark purple brown with even darker lines

Sapele, Pommele

entandrophragma cylindricum

sapele pommele for hardwood boxes

Normally a redish pink colour with a bubble or quilted appearance


piratinera guianensis

snakewood for hardwood boxes

Normally a rich, dark reddish brown, with brown/black speckled markings

Sycamore burr

platanus occidentalis

american sycamore burr for hardwood boxes

Thuya Burr

tetraclinis articulata

thuya burr for hardwood boxes

Normally a rich red-brown colour with small brown/black burr pips

Vavona Burr

sequoiua sempervirens

vavona for hardwood boxes

Normally a dark pinkish red to reddish brown with darker or lighter areas

Walnut Burr, American Black

juglans nigra

american black walnut burr for hardwood boxes

Walnut Burr, European

juglans regia

european walnut burr for hardwood boxes

Yew Burr

taxus baccata

yew burr for hardwood boxes

Varies from yellow-brown to orange-brown with heavy pipping to a full burr


cordia dodecandra

zircote for hardwood boxes

Varies from greyish-brown to dark brown streaked with irregular darker markings