Veneer panels are made by bonding a thin layer of veneer to a substrate, which can be plywood, particle board, or medium density fiberboard (MDF). The veneer surface may be from a hardwood like oak, an exotic wood like ebony or rosewood, or a fast-growing wood like obeche that has been colored to mimic a hardwood or exotic wood. Veneer panels are available in different thicknesses, depending on the type of substrate. Two-ply veneer panels are flexible and can be used on curved surfaces.
Veneer is created by shaving very thin pieces of wood from a log. At one time, wood veneer was usually about 1/4 inch (0.635 cm) thick, but modern tools and procedures cut veneer that is usually 1/90 to 1/40 inch (0.028 to 0.064 cm) thick. The veneer can be cut from a log that is rotated or cut from the flat surface of a large piece of wood called a flitch.
The angle of the cut used in making flat cut veneer creates the pattern in the finished veneer, which determines the appearance of the veneer panels. Plain sliced veneer has a "cathedral" pattern, while quarter sliced veneer has unusual patterns, sometimes rays or stripes. When veneer panels are made, the slices of veneer are arranged to create a particular appearance.
In book matching, alternate sheets from the same flitch are flipped over, so that mirror images of the pattern are created across the face of the veneer panels. Slip matched sheets are joined side-by-side in sequence without flipping any of the sheets. In butt matching, veneer sheets are matched top to bottom to produce a longer veneer panels. Usually the sheets are flipped to produce mirror images of the wood pattern.
One of the biggest problems with veneer panels is veneer checking. Different types of wood absorb and release moisture at different rates. This can produce uniformly spaced hairline cracks, called checks, in the veneer surface. Checking is less likely to happen if the veneer and the substrate are dried to the same moisture level before veneer panels are assembled and if they are cured in a controlled environment. Veneer panels should also be stored in a controlled environment, not in an unheated warehouse.