Working With Veneer - Book Matching

Working with veneer enables us to do things and use different materials and techniques that are not possible or perhaps just not affordable or practical to do in solid wood. One of the most common and impressive practices in veneer work is book matching. What makes book matching in veneer different from book matching in solid wood is the ability, because of its thinness, to render many almost identical copies of a given pattern. This allows near perfect four (or more) way matches that can really make a project “pop”.

In this article I will focus on the four way match in walnut burl that I used on these open apron nesting tables.


This project required not just four but eight sequenced leaves of the walnut burl as I was making the two tabletops in identical matches. These were ordered from Certainly Wood after looking at their photos online with my client. When the veneer arrived she came out to the shop and we got out my acrylic mirrors to look for just the right match.


By moving the mirrors around on the oversized burl pieces we found several candidates before she made her choice.


The white paper angle defines the edge of the piece that will be cut out for use on the tabletop.

Once the match had been decided, the sequenced leaves were carefully aligned and cut together to produce eight (nearly) identical pieces.


The pieces were then jointed for perfect fit by clamping them between two straight pieces of solid wood and passing a sharp plane over the edges that will form the fit. To assure the four way fit is perfect, I joint the pieces in pairs first and then joint the pairs together to form the second (90 degree) seam. (Sorry, I don’t have a photo of this process with the actual burl but the process is the same)


Once the edges were deemed as perfect as they could be made, they were assembled with veneer tape in readiness for pressing to the tabletop substrate.


Then in this case I laid the veneer out on a piece of MDF on my bench, tape side down and placed the plywood substrate on top, positioning it exactly as I wanted it. Then I positioned pieces of scrap that would define that location while I removed the plywood and applied glue.


This is the smaller tabletop so the veneer extends beyond the substrate piece.

Next I applied a liberal coating of hot hide glue to the veneer, replaced the plywood substrate, and took it directly to the press.


After removal from the press they looked like this.


This effect would be impossible with thicker solid wood but with veneer, a little practice, and a little care, anyone can do it.

Paul is the founder and instructor at The Canadian School Of French Marquetry (Facebook)