The Search for the perfect Veneer

30. March 2021

In many of our projects we use veneer. Wood of a quality that Dobas desires is rar to come across. We explain how veneer is made and how we find suitable veneer logs.

A natural product always has its own peculiarities – this also applies to wood. Accordingly, not every log is suitable for further processing into veneer. «The basic rule is: five percent of the wood that is cut globally is suitable for veneer production,» says Tobias Scherg. He is the managing director of Roser AG in Birsfelden – and one of our partners in finding suitable veneer for Dobas projects.

First the hammer falls

However, the purchase is preceded by a large number of steps. The process begins with logging, which takes place during the cold months. Roser AG can always trace where its trees come from and how they have – literally – grown. The company is committed to the sustainable and resource-conserving use of wood as a material.

The best cut logs are then released for auction by the forest owners and forestry offices. «Me and my team go to look at the trees in the forest and discuss their suitability on site,» explains Tobias Scherg, «after which we can make a one-time secret bid per log if there is interest.»

Whether a log is suitable for further processing into veneer depends, among other things, on whether branches once grew on it. «If it has a knot somewhere, a wood feature would later be visible on the veneer and an even end result would not be possible,» the Roser managing director elaborates. The cylinder may not have a curvature whatsoever to make it suitable for producing the 0.6-millimeter-thin face sheets. «The wood really has to be perfect.»

Cooking, slicing, ironing

The purchased logs are then sent to a veneer plant. Where the processing takes place depends on where the wood was cut. The aim, of course, is to keep the distances as short as possible.

At the veneer plant, the logs are debarked, inspected again and divided into sections. Then it's off to the boiling and steam bath to soften the wood and give the veneer a nice color later on. Next, the logs are either sliced or peeled. Depending on the technique, the veneer appearance will look different. In true quarter slicing, for example, logs are quartered and sliced at right angles to the annual rings. This results in very plain and striated veneer. «Extra rift-quality veneer,» as expert Scherg calls the result, is also the type of veneer Dobas often resorts to. Whether extra rift-quality or other appearance, we use only FSC-certified wood in our projects. FSC is committed to environmentally sound, socially acceptable and economically viable forest management.

After slicing or peeling, the ironing dryer is used. This means that the veneer sheets are dried between two metal belts. Before being transported to Roser AG, each log is finally bundled into packages of 24 sheets each. Up to 2000 square meters of veneer are obtained from one tree. «It is the most economical and ecological product we can produce from wood,» Tobias Scherg sums up the output.

Digitalizing, reviewing, pinning

About three weeks after the log is picked up in the forest, it arrives in Birsfelden in the form of veneer. Scherg and his team then sort the bundles and classify them according to their own quality classes.

Before Dobas CEO Patrick Buchecker drives to Birsfelden to view potential veneers, he receives a digitized image by e-mail. Each bundle runs through the «Veneer Imager» and is photo-optically scanned. 

On site then the agony of choice. Patrick Buchecker is often accompanied by a carpenter who contributes his know-how in the field of processing. The suitable veneer bundles are looked through sheet by sheet, often several times. «I usually have plans with me and make notes on where which bundle could be used in which project,» says the Dobas CEO, explaining the selection process.

In order to test how single veneer sheets look next to each other and whether they can also be combined to form a larger surface, they can be pinned to a large magnetic wall at Roser AG.

«Every tree is and remains unique, every log is different,» Tobias Scherg sums up his work, «just like us humans. That's what makes it so exciting.»

Walnut Veneer in Use

In 2019, Dobas realized a 220-square-meter boutique on Lisbon's luxury boulevard for specialty retailer Torres Joalheiros. It features, inter alia, hundreds of walnut veneer covered palings. Learn more about the project

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