In a nutshell. Veneers and Plywood have different applications in the industry.
However; the term veneer has two meanings in woodworking. Other than the fact multiple layering up veneers yield plywood, the topcoat of many cheap boards, such as particleboards, is coated with thin wooden slices to give them a wood-like appearance.
Nonetheless, the basic use of veneers is to compose plywood when 3 or 5 such slices are glued together.
Decorative laminates on the other side are an alternative to veneers.
The alternative in a sense of giving the final finish coat to many cheap particles with laminate veneer is possible.
Moreover, they are made of plastic instead of wooden, and the grain and pattern on them are produced industrially.
Laminated veneers have the advantage of being scratch-resistant and waterproof.
So, there is no big difference between a veneer, plywood, and laminate.
In a lot of respects, the workarounds are the same and can be used interchangeably.
However, some properties can be extremely different, such as prices, pros, cons.
In general, the term plywood refers to any board made by layering up natural wood plies.
The number of plies speaks for the strength it will have. 3-plies, 5-plies, 7-plies are common numbers to them.
Veneer vs plywood vs laminate
Interestingly enough, the plies used in making plywood are also called veneers.
But the confusing part here, any engineered wood such as MDF, HDF, particleboard, even sometimes plywood’s top-and-bottom is always coated with thin layers of wood or any plastic, which is in fact, known as plywood coated with veneer.
The slices of thin wood can be of any superior quality natural wood to add a warm look to the final finishing, or laminate veneers that are made of plastic to add a fancy look.
In woodworking, the term veneer basically means slices of wood, dimensionally about 1/8 inches thick, and their lengths can vary based on needs, hence can be obtained from factories.
Further, veneers in plywood refer to both the plies and the last thin coated slice of wood/plastic that is also known as veneer.
The ones used as plies are not always thin, rather they measure the quality factor in most cases. Such that, plywood with thicker plies is considered as of a low-grade.
On the other hand plywoods with thin plies usually refer to the high-graded plywoods, such as marine plywood is composed of thin sheets.
Other than plywoods, the veneer term refers to the upper layer of engineered woods, such as MDF, HDF, chipboard, and others which are made by using wood dust.
Since they are made of debris, they don’t have a smooth surface. In order to give them a wood-like appearance, a thin coat either of wood or plastic must be wrapped upon them.
You might get an idea about what plywoods are. An odd number of thin sheets of wood are compressed under high temperature and pressure.
Glued together using adhesives like phenolic resins and other chemicals to treat the wood to make a plywood board usable for many applications, exterior on the interior for both environments, the process of manufacturing differs.
Species of softwoods and hardwoods both are widely used in manufacturing these plywoods.
Plywood that is commonly used in construction and industry is typically made from spruce, pine, or fir (collectively known as spruce-pine-fir or SPF) or redwood.
Surface hardness, damage, water-resistant, and wear resistance are all excellent characteristics of hardwood plywood. Often used for demanding applications.
Hardwood plywood is made from wooden dicot trees (Oak, Beech, and Mahogany).
Hence, particularly suitable for heavy-duty floor and wall structures because of its high planar shear strength and outstanding impact resistance.
Laminate in woodworking, it’s a thin sheet of plastic materials used to coat particleboards, plywoods, and sometimes solid wood furniture is treated by this material as the finish coat to give added beauty.
They sure do have a wood-like appearance and patterns on them look no different than any natural wood.
About Wood grain-like patterns, they are basically artificially printed on laminate using machines to give it its appearance.
Types of veneers:
There are many types of veneers in woodworking, some popular are as follows.
- Raw veneer has no backing, so you can use it either way around. Due to the wood’s cell structure, the two sides will look different after finishing.
- A paper-backed, paper-backed veneer. The advantage of paper-backed veneer is it comes in large sizes, or sheets, as smaller pieces are joined together before the backing is applied. Comes in handy if you don’t wish to join raw veneer pieces together. Additionally, this is beneficial when laying veneer on curves and columns as it causes the veneer to crack less often.
- The phenolic-backed veneer is rarely available and is often used in composites or synthetic veneers. As natural resources are being conserved, this type of veneer is becoming more popular. Furthermore, it is also more likely to crack when used on curves due to the fact that it is also available in large sheets.
- A lay-up veneer consists of several raw veneers joined together to form larger pieces. It requires a good deal of care and is time-consuming, but it is not complicated and doesn’t require expensive tools. Some companies offer pre-layup veneers that are available in any size or shape.
- Reconstituted veneer– The veneer comes from the log and is then dyed if necessary. Once dyed, the sheets are laminated together to form a block. In order to create the reconstituted veneer, the edge of the laminated veneer is cut in half so that the edges become the “grain”.
- Wood on Wood is a decorative wood veneer face paired with a utility-grade wood backer on the opposite side of the face veneer.