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Veneers, their descriptions and uses in marquetry by Roy Murton

Here we are now at veneers numbers 37 to 48 for your references. I hope you are finding that these descriptions and the "scanned in" veneers in the gallery are helping you with your veneer selections. Some of the veneer descriptions I am using on these pages are based on the descriptions provided in the 1950's by the venerated Bill Lincoln. Where applicable I have updated items in the text of the descriptions to bring them up to date with current ideas and customs, I trust you will approve.

37/. BUBINGA: West African. A light red brown coloured veneer with light pink or red stripes. Fine textured but a little hard. When its rotary cut this wood is known as Kevasingo. Can be used for depicting hills or roofs. Latin name: Guibourtia Spp

38/. BETULA: Betula alleghaniensis. Canada. The warm biscuit to light pink tone of silky birch, makes this a most useful marquetry veneer. Straight grained, with veins and a mottled figure, this smooth textured wood, is hard but cuts easily. Plentiful in supply, and reasonably priced, betula is most useful for the flesh tones of portraiture, pink flowers, costume and drapery, some sky effects, and it also reacts to treatments as grey wood, very good for water effects. Sand shades most effectively. This is the rotary cut heartwood of the white / creamy Canadian birch.

39/. CEDAR OF LEBANON: This is the famous cedar referred to in the Bible and possesses its characteristic and distinctive odour. Its chief value is as a panelling veneer, since its beauty is discernible on the full leaf. For the purposes of marquetry it may be used for fencing or the end planking of houses if you obtain quartered veneer, and if you are fortunate enough to use crown cut Cedar of Lebanon it is possible to find yellow and pink tinges. These freak leaves can be used effectively for sky effects.

40/. FRUIT CHERRY: European. Pink and stripey veneer that is reasonably easy to cut. The crown cut fruit cherry can be used with confidence for sunset sky effects. On other parts of the veneer leaf, and in certain quarter cut types of fruit cherry, you may often find a beautifully flecked ray figure, which has uses in depicting stonework in sunset pictures. Latin name: Prunus Avium

41/. HORSE CHESTNUT: A nice white veneer, probably the whitest you will find, although these days Holly is available in fairly reasonable sized pieces for very white marquetry needs, but this is only a recent development and because of the diameter of the Holly logs being too small for knife cutting conversion into veneer sheets, Holly was not really available commercially and horse chestnut was unfortunately the only “white” veneer around until recently. Having said all that, there is nothing second best about horse chestnut, on the contrary it is a soft textured beautiful wood ideal for snow scenes, white washed Irish cottages, flowers, highlights, and wherever a plain white veneer is required. Perfect for chessboards of course. Sometimes found with a natural mineral stain marking which then makes the veneer ideal for sky effects. When chemically treated as harewood (instead of sycamore) makes excellent water effects.

42/. SWEET CHESTNUT: A veneer similar in appearance to English Oak, but don’t get it confused with Horse Chestnut, which is a much whiter veneer. Sweet Chestnut is a mild and gentle veneer to work with. It is easy to cut and can be used to depict the walls of buildings, stonework, etc, or as the shadow for oak veneer. For example: where one part of a wall is in shadow and one part lit by sun.

42a/. CINNAMOMUM: From the Pepperwood family of veneers. An interesting "greeny/grey" coloured veneer. Could be very useful for sky and water effects.
Please Note: Peter White of the Marquetry Society has kindly made available the piece of "Cinnamomum" being displayed in our veneer gallery - click the gallery link below to see this interesting veneer.

43/. COURBARIL: Very scarce and difficult to obtain. This veneer is ideal for many marquetry effects requiring a little imagination. For example, it makes excellent tree trunks, as the light and dark streaks seen in the larger veneer leaves, makes it possible to cut a tree trunk giving the appearance of being rounded. It has also been used to depict a night sky and has also been used on a “Bombers Moon” type of picture, or again a picture featuring an Owl. It has been used successfully for water effects in a night scene. A useful piece to have in the box to pick up and pore over whenever you are stumped to know what to use, you know the feeling.

44/. DANIELLA: Daniella spp. West Africa. It is light to mid brown with darker brown streaks. This straight-grained veneer is smooth textured and easy to cut. Spasmodic in supply, it can be costly. It is often suitable for mid distance fields, tree trunks, where the two tones of the veneer give a natural roundness. It fits in well in most wooden subjects, such as planked walls, doors, fences, boats and interior scenes.

45/. EBONY MACASSAR: Diospyros celebica. Celebes Islands. An important marquetry veneer, often described as coromandel or calamander, when crown cut as this reveals a beige / fawn coloured streaky striped figuring. The quarter cut wood is dark brown with close striped appearance. It is often mistakenly confused with the really jet black ebony from Gaboon, which is not commercially available as a knife cut veneer, although because of the advances made in technology these days that statement may not be entirely correct, you see, a lot of the information used for these notes is derived from reference material originating in the 1950’s. The information is in general impeccable, but, 50 years can see terrific advances in technology, so where the differences are obvious we will highlight them when necessary. Macassar ebony is the “blackest” veneer available for marquetry. It is very hard, inclined to split and crumble and often (almost always) requires papering on the back so as to hold the splintering fragments together. It is an expensive veneer sometimes in short supply, and usually only in narrow widths of about 3 in to 5 in (7cms to 12.5cms). Suitable for deep shadows, wooden subjects such as half timbered houses, tree trunks, fences, planks and rock formations. Its use gives a picture depth as it contrasts well with the sycamores and lighter woods. It’s also useful for depicting clothing.

46/. ELM BURR: England. The burr of the elm, it is inclined to be coarse, and there may be bark ingrowths leaving tiny holes in the veneer. If you make careful selection of your piece of veneer you will find it very useful for trees and bushes. It can have a mixture of colours in the same piece of veneer. Latin name: Ulmus Procera

47/. ELM FIGURED: England. Brownish pink in colour, the Figured Elm is crown cut and has interesting wavy markings. The wild heart figure is very attractive, best seen in large pieces as when used for panelling, but in small pieces some good foregrounds can be found. Latin name: Ulmus Procera

48/. GABOON: This wood is used extensively in the manufacturing of plywood and block-board as a constructional veneer. This beautifully decorative veneer is often frowned upon for marquetry purposes. However, together with its attractive friend Obeche, Gaboon is an excellent veneer for marquetry and has a lustre and a light reflecting potential second to none. It makes a good sky, is a must for roses, for the pink washed walls in Mediterranean scenes and is useful for depicting clothing, curtains, etc. It is easy to cut and a pleasure to work.

I hope you will find the above descriptions have provided you with much useful information. I have to give my grateful acknowledgements to the work of Bill Lincoln for much of the technical information included in the veneer descriptions in this library. I will add the next twelve for you in a few weeks time.

Enjoy your Marquetry, Roy.

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