selecting materials checking dark veneers

Selecting materials

Hardwoods for fine boxes

Our handmade boxes are crafted from timbers milled mostly from hardwood trees.

In temperate and Boreal forests hardwoods are broad-leaf and deciduous, they lose their leaves annually. In tropical forests the hardwoods are evergreens.

Hardwood trees differ from softwoods mainly in their method of reproduction, not necessarily their hardness.

Although, Balsa is a hardwood it is much softer than most softwoods, and therefore of little use for boxes or furniture. Conversely, Yew is a softwood, being very hard is popular in furniture making.

Hardwoods often have more intense colours and lustres than softwoods and can be used decoratively as solid timber, veneer or as inlays.

See our environment impact statement.

Selecting hardwood

The hardwood timbers we use are some of the more interesting hardwoods available for fine boxes.

View the hardwoods we generally use, colours and grain patterns shown are only representative of each wood.  As these are organic materials there will be differences in the actual woods.

Many of these species have quite interesting variations, workable in solid form such as pips, fiddlebacks, and burrs. But, some are only workable in veneer.

Veneer for fine boxes

Our handmade boxes are created in both solid hardwoods and veneers cut from solid hardwoods. The requirements of the design informs our decision of which to use. Hardwood veneers are available from many species.

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

Why use veneer for fine boxes?

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

  • The finest and rarest timbers are normally converted to veneer, this increases the availability of the most desirable timbers.
  • Converting timber maximises the use of a tree and reduces waste so is more environmentally sound.
  • 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.
  • Certain patterns and details can only be constructed with veneers, such as a traditional sunburst.
  • Certain timbers, especially some burrs, are impossible to work with in solid as they fall apart readily.

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 peeling logs.

Each method produces different grain effects from the same type of timber.

Patterns in veneer for fine boxes

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 sunburst pattern effects which you may have seen on more exquisite tables.

This is an example of book-matched Maple burr and an example of Pomelle Sapele with Bird’s Eye Maple. This latter is a pattern joined in the middle with the same complications as a simple sunburst.

Marquetry is the art of making pictures with wood, again veneers are particularly suitable for this. Client initials set within a box the most popular. 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.

Cross 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 with variously designed patterns.

It’s striking to realise that many of the world’s greatest treasures of furniture are veneered. Moreover, 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.

Exotic veneers

View the exotic hardwood veneers that we work with to produce a fine handmade box.

Note – colours and grain patterns are representative, as wood is an organic material there may be differences to the wood supplied.

Dyed veneers

View the coloured hardwood veneers that we work with to normally add contrasting details. Some of our contemporary boxes are based on coloured veneers that have ripples or fiddlebacks or other interesting grains.

Note – colours and grain patterns are representative, as wood is an organic material there may be differences to the wood supplied.