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Veneer - determining "good" side

4602 Views 5 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Sawdust2
I read articles that instruct to apply blue tape to the "back" side of the veneer and then use veneer tape of the "good" side. I've looked at several pieces of veneer I have and have been unable to determine which is the good and which is the back side.

Any guidance on this matter would be appreciated. What should I look for to determine which side is which?


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Hey Jim (Nice name)
Heres a link for the venering guy.
Some veneers have a backing and some don't.

I'd say if you can't tell the difference, it doesn't matter.
I guess what I'm looking for here is do unbacked veneers have a front and a back - a good side and a 'not so good' side. And, if so, how does one tell the difference between them?

Quoted from "Getting on the good side of veneer" in the book Fine Woodworking on Marquetry and Veneer 1987, by Ian J Kirby

"Veneer-cutting technology is complicated and the only thing that most woodworkers need to understand is that there is considerable cracking of wood tissue during the slicing process and the two sides of each veneer piece will have very different characteristics. Two different surfaces are created as each new slice curls off the parent log.
This difference is important when you're deciding which side to glue to the substrate. By putting the smoother compression side up (the tight side), you'll have the more cohesive side of the veneer on the outside, whith the deeper cracks of the tension (loose) side against the substrate. Smooth-side up is best for hand-woodworking, because when you clean and sand you will go through the small compression cracks and get to the solid part of the veneer much more easily.
These two surfaces also affect bookmatching. If you have a highly figured veneer 6 in. wide and you want a 12 in. panel, you might be tempted to open two consecutive pieces like a book and put them together so that that the pattern matches down the center (you can do this since veneers are stored in bundles or swatches in the order they were sliced). This works in solid wood, but with veneer you expose one tight side and one loose side. The visual effect when finish is applied to book-matched veneers can be quite poor. A surface that looks fine all through the process suddenly takes on a different feel, because the tight and loose sides will absorb the finish differently and that makes the surfaces reflect light differently.
There are several ways to tell which side is which. You can rub the surfaces with your hand-the loose or tension side will be rougher. Or you can look at the stuff, and generally the side that looks smoother is the tight or compression side, and it will have more sheen then the loose side. Neither of these methods is reliable, though. the best way to differentiate between the two sides is to bend the veneer and imitate what was happening to it when it came off the machine. With the tension side up, it will bend sharply without any audible or visible cracking. If you turn it over and do the same thing on the other side, you'll feel greater resistance and hear cracking. Thus the side that is less prone to bending is the compression side; the other is the tension side."

There's a lot of good information, but you'll have to buy the book to learn the rest. LOL
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A good explanation.
Another point is that if you lay the compression side up and then the tension side up next to it, when you apply finish they will not reflect light the same way. You need to be uniform when you lay out your pieces.

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