The trend towards alternative veneers for doorset production

Here, Stephen Hutsby, Head of Marketing and Product Development for Integrated Doorset Solutions looks at an increasing trend towards alternative veneers within door production, that move away from traditional timbers towards engineered veneers and more rapidly renewable resources.

First and foremost, it is important to look at the environmental impact of veneers versus solid timber. When using veneer in place of solid sections of the same timber, the impact is much less since the sheer volume of material used is reduced. During manufacture, the thin slices of veneer, which are bonded together on edge to produce lay-ons that are large enough to cover a door, enable an incredibly cost effective and environmentally friendly solution to be supplied – particularly when compared to more traditional solid timber doors.

Wood veneers are attractive and rightfully popular materials and are generally classified into two distinct kinds: natural wood veneer and engineered wood veneer.  Natural veneer is a unique material sliced from logs that is influenced by an individual tree’s reaction to its soil composition, geographic location and other growing conditions throughout the duration of its growth. The intrinsic patterns and markings in natural veneers aren’t altered or enhanced in any way, making each natural veneer from a tree an individual work of art. The production process for natural wood veneer is known as slicing. This is when an entire log, or part of a log, is sliced with the use of an extremely sharp knife, producing thin sheets of veneer.  Engineered wood veneers, on the other hand, are sliced from softer, rapidly growing renewable species. This veneer is dyed in vats, dried and glued together into various shaped blocks where it will be re-sliced and re-glued, depending on the desired pattern. The finished product can emulate natural wood grains like crown cut, quarter cut straight grain, burl or other figure. Even geometric patterns can be created.  Natural veneers are unique; no two trees, even if they’re the same species, will have identical patterns in their wood. Engineered veneers are man-made, so the resulting designs can be mass produced.

Where a more exotic veneer finish is desired, there are now ways in which this can be achieved, without resorting to the use of the actual material itself. Engineered veneers, which are created using poplar for example – a timber that has full FSC accreditation, are sliced then bonded together before being dyed and cut at varying angles to successfully simulate more exotic or in some cases, endangered timbers such as Teak, Macassar, Ebony, Rosewood and Bubinga.

The process of dyeing wood, seen in ranges such as Alpi® and Tabu®, makes the aesthetic characteristics of the veneers homogeneous, assuring consistency of colour, eliminating the differences between light and dark veins not only in logs belonging to the same wood species but also within the very same log.  Advantages are enormous since the use of pre-dyed veneers eliminates the need of matching different colour shades. Dyeing emphasises the veins of the wood and any other natural tri-dimensional features a veneer may show deep down in its fibres: burrs, fiddle backs, quilts, eyes. The greatest value of wood dyeing lays in its boundless potential, such as the variety of colours available and the tones it is possible to create, year after year, fashion after fashion in a creative, ingenuous and unlimited way. This process also enables more readily available veneers to be created that are consistent in grain, colour and appearance – something that can be especially useful when working on large projects or those where the installation is being carried out in stages, yet a uniform look and feel is required.

Taking this premise further still, manufacturers are now also looking at the veneers themselves – sourcing a new generation of materials that deliver comparable aesthetics and performance, with even stronger sustainability credentials.  Banana plants, for example, are especially suited for use in this way and offer a viable alternative to standard veneers. Taken from the stem of the plant at the end of its nine-month growing cycle, once it has produced its crop of bananas, the stem is harvested and converted into a veneer, commonly known as Green Blade® – Banana trunk veneer.

Another material that can be produced in veneer form is bamboo, which benefits greatly from being cut back regularly as this promotes more vigorous growth afterwards. In fact, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world with reported growth rates of 100 cm in just 24 hours. It is worth pointing out that the species of bamboo used in the production of veneers is not that favoured by pandas and so, is completely environmentally friendly. With longer lengths available – some species of bamboo can in fact grow to around 30 metres tall, bamboo veneer can be laid both horizontally and vertically, depending on the desired end look. Timber is one of the most environmentally friendly materials available – if used responsibly – and providing a wide choice of sustainable options is the key.

Integrated Doorsets is committed to continual research and development in this area, providing customers with a host of innovative finishes that not only look great but offer the green credentials they demand.