Veneer Buying Guide: Part 2 – Choosing the Backer

A sheet of veneer consists of a face and a backer.  In the first part of this series, I discussed the face veneer.  In this part of the series, I will discuss choosing the best backer for your project.

There are five types of veneer backers:

  • Paper
  • Wood
  • Phenolic
  • Poly
  • Peel-and-Stick

Paper:

Paper backed veneer is the most flexible backer option for wood veneer.  This is best used for tight radius applications. Because of the thinness of the paper backer it can sometimes be difficult to work with when being used for lay-up onto a panel unless you are using a vacuum bag or press.   If you are laying up by hand, any glue spread unevenly may bleed through to the face.  Due to the thinness of the backer, the face is more likely to dent so it is not recommend for use in high traffic areas.

Wood:

Wood is by far the most popular backer option.  It is less flexible than paperbacked veneer but it is still flexible and used for many applications.  Because of the wood backer, there will be no bleed through from glue spread unevenly when laying up by hand.  The thick wood backer also makes the face more durable than paperbacked veneer and is recommended for high traffic areas such as tabletops or other areas where the veneer may be exposed to being hit by other objects.  This backer is not as fragile as the phenolic and poly options discussed below.

Phenolic:

Phenolic, also known as mica back, is fragile but highly durable.  It has the same limitations as working with laminate.  It is recommended for use in high traffic areas and when the manufacturer wants to be sure that there will be no glue bleed through to the face when being used for lay-up.  It is flexible but not as flexible as a paper backed or wood backed veneer.

Poly:

Poly back is the strongest and most durable backer option but it is fragile.  It can crack when bent but not as easily as phenolic backed veneers.

Peel and Stick:

Though it sounds like peel and stick veneer would be a breeze to work with, you still must be careful.  The bond is so good that once it is in place, it is very difficult to move.  So, be sure to measure properly.  For an extra bond, some woodworkers also put glue onto the adhesive.

To recap, if you are looking for flexibility, paper backed veneer is the best option.  If you are looking for a highly durable surface, poly back is your best bet.  But, as stated above, each option has its drawbacks and benefits.  It really comes down to what you are most comfortable working with and your experience as a wood worker.  Wood back is by far the most popular backer option because it is very easy to work with, you still get the flexibility most people want in a wood veneer, it provides a durable face, and it is easier to layup by hand than paper backed veneer.

By: Katie Plank

VP of Sales and Marketing