How Thick is Wood Veneer

Wood veneer is a thin layer of wood applied to a substrate such as particle board or plywood. It allows you to use expensive figured wood to create a dramatic look while cutting costs compared to solid wood. 

 

Using natural wood veneers improves consistency in colour and grain pattern across a piece of furniture. Furthermore, using veneer can enhance the finished product’s durability. When applied correctly to a substrate, veneer is thin, lightweight, and strong.

 

Yet veneer has a bad reputation for being of lesser quality than solid wood. Thin wood veneer is thought to be easily damaged. So, how thick is wood veneer, and is it truly of lesser quality than solid wood?

Table of Contents

The Bad Rap of Veneer

split and chipped veneer banding, it is easy to replace veneer banding
Split and chipping Veneer leads to the bad rap of Veneer. These are actually easy fixes.

Thin veneers have had a bad rap in recent history. With the use of machines, veneer is thinner than ever. Furthermore, it is placed on lower-quality substrates. 

 

But what people are sold as wood veneer is often not. It’s a laminate that is printed to look like wood veneer. These reasons have led consumers not to trust veneer as they do solid wood. 

 

This is a sad fact, considering veneer has been used for hundreds of years. Antique and vintage veneer furniture is good quality and often surpasses modern solid, softwood furniture. I have vintage teak furniture made from veneer, which is 60 years old and still looks gorgeous.

 

This is because natural wood veneer is made from… real wood! It contains the fibres and all the properties that wood does. The quality of the type of wood matters. Quality wood veneers will beat lesser quality solid wood always!

 

Cheaper-made, big-box store furniture does not contain strong substrates, and printed laminate is easily damaged and not as repairable as wood veneers. That is why it usually winds up in a landfill within 5 to 10 years. 

 

With the right method of correctly caring for your furniture and understanding the nature of veneer, your vintage and antique furniture will live on for more generations. 

 

And should the veneer start to split or chip, it can be easily fixed. 

How Thick is Wood Veneer Anyway?

close up of thin sheets of different types of veneers

The industry standard for wood veneer thickness on furniture is between 0.4 and 0.8 mm, or 1/64 to 1/32 inch. The average and most common thickness is 0.6mm or 1/42 inch. This allows for a very thin layer of expensive or rare wood to be applied over a substrate such as MDF, particle board, or plywood. 

 

As I am located in Europe, I will focus on millimetres. For my American friends, here is a handy millimetre to inches calculator

 

While the thickness of the veneer varies, most wood veneers available today are 0.6mm. This allows the decorative wood layer to be applied at an economical cost. 

 

Thick veneers are available on the market. These thicker veneers, which can be upwards of 1mm to 3mm, are used for a variety of other applications. They are rarely used for furniture but rather for panelling or musical instruments. 

Unsure if your furniture is Veneer?

Check out this handy list on how to determine veneer from solid wood furniture.

Historical Thickness of Wood Veneer

Before modern machinery, veneer was manually cut. This made it harder to achieve a truly thin piece of wood veneer. It was only during the 1800s that new saw technology improved the cutting of veneer. With this help, it was finally possible to achieve the 0.6 mm we are familiar with today. 

 

Prior to the 1800s, veneer thickness was, on average, 1.5 to 3 mm. Due to the labour-intensive manner of cutting veneers, only the most valuable furniture incorporated them. Veneer was considered craftsmanship.

 

Today, in museums, you can find examples of veneer furniture from before the 1800s. They often contain beautiful veneer inlays depicting scenes and geometric shapes. 

close up of restored veneer inlay on a table top.
Veneer Inlay is a form of Art

Benefits of Thin Wood Veneer

Thinly cut veneer was seen as having many benefits. The least of which was that you could optimize the use of decorative wood types. Burls and other figured wood could be used across an entire furniture surface.

 

The flexibility of thinly cut wood veneer was also a huge benefit. It could bend around curved surfaces, where thicker cut veneer would crack or break.

Walnut Veneer Stonehill Drinks Cabinet
Veneer over Curves

Double Veneer

I cannot talk about wood veneer without including double veneer. This is when two layers of veneer are laminated together. It was commonly done on high-end furniture pieces in the past to provide extra strength and durability. 

 

While working on the Stonehill Cabinet, I encountered double veneer. While the veneer over the curved edges was single veneer, the flat surfaces were double veneer. My gosh, was this veneer hard to remove! It was double the normal work, but it was worth it! After removing the double veneer layer, I applied walnut veneer to the cabinet-grade plywood.

 

If the piece of furniture you are working on appears to have thicker or even two sheets of veneer, it may be a case of double veneer.

Chipped birds eye veneer on stonehill drinks cabinet
This Stonehill had double veneer on the top.

The purpose of using double veneer includes:

Increased strength

Having two layers of veneer makes the final laminated panel stronger and more resistant to warping or cracking over time. The grain direction of the two veneers is usually oriented perpendicular to each other, adding stability.

 

Hide imperfections

Minor imperfections in the base veneer can be hidden by laminating a second, higher-quality veneer over it.

 

High-wear areas

Double veneer can be strategically used on tabletops, cabinet doors, and other high-use areas to increase durability and lifespan.

 

Repair ability

If the face veneer is damaged, it can be sanded and repaired without replacing the entire panel if a substrate veneer is present.

 

In summary, double veneer provides extra strength and repair ability compared to single veneer panels in high-end furniture. The costs involved are the main reason why it is uncommon today.

How to Remove Wood Veneer?

Check out Different Methods of how to remove damaged Wood Veneer.
Even from Particle Board!

Final Thoughts

In summary, the standard thickness for most wood veneers today is between 0.4 and 0.6mm. However, historically, thicker veneers in the 1-3mm range were standard in applications like furniture-making. 

 

The thickness of the veneer you use will depend on the project you are working on. Thinner veneers permit more flexibility around curved items and furniture. Thicker veneers are standardly used for panelling and musical instruments. It could be a good idea to increase the thickness of the veneer for a tabletop that you expect to experience a lot of wear.

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Hey, I'm Sarah, the owner of Bold Wallflowers.

I'm on a self-taught journey through furniture refinishing and restoration, loving every experiment in my workshop.

Join me as I share my discoveries and gained knowledge with our vibrant community of fellow refinishers!

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