Walnut Veneer sunburst pattern - preperation

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Intro.  I have had a few comments on Instagram asking for a bit more detail about how to achieve the sunburst pattern to a high degree of accuracy, so the intent of this mini-series of blogs is to follow the process from start to finish. Firstly, let me set the scene in terms of what we are trying to achieve for anyone not following me on Instagram and therefore not familiar with the piece of furniture. 


The coffee table is made from Walnut and Oak but due to some of the dimensions involved it would be problematic to make it from solid wood due to wood movement issues.  Consequently, the large surfaces are being manufactured from 15mm MDF with 2.5mm hand-cut veneers on each side.  As we are using veneers it allows us to be a bit creative with the large top and back surfaces and hence the design incorporates a sunburst pattern emanating from the back corner. 

Sizing of parts.  Before I get anywhere near to cutting wood, it is important to ensure that the required dimensions are fully understood to prevent any expensive mistakes (have you seen the cost of Walnut)!  The final dimension of the top is a 1200mm x 600mm rectangle.  The first decision was to cut the MDF core 2mm over on each side which would allow for a certain amount of trimming to help with getting the precise finish required on the sunburst corner.  The second decision was about lippings.  The surfaces that wrap around the top, back and bottom will have a 15degree bevel applied to the edge all the way round.  Careful consideration was given to applying either pre or post lippings.  I settled on pre-lipped and that the bevel would be cut after all the veneer work was complete.  The lippings therefore will have to have enough material to allow for the bevel cut.  The lippings will be 15 x 10mm and this additional 10mm thickness was therefore subtracted from the overall MDF core dimensions on each edge that would receive a lipping.  So, for example, the MDF Top is 600 + 4 – 10 = 594mm (no lipping on the rear where the pattern folds down the back) while the length is 1200 + 4 – 20 = 1184mm

The lippings will be an important visual element so they will be arranged with the grain mimicking the wood as if it were solid.  What do I mean – along the front edge will be end-grain lipping while the sides will be long grain lippings.

Now confident of what I am trying to achieve dimensionally, the arduous task of hand cutting veneers can take place.  So, a few hours were spent at the bandsaw producing veneers that were a nominal 4mm thick, allowing some margin of error over the length of the boards.  2 boards were cut in total, one 37mm x 2100mm and one 27mm x 2400mm.  My top tips for accurate veneers.  Well, a new blade on the bandsaw is a must, strong even pressure across the board near the blade and a nice steady speed of cut – not a job you can rush I’m afraid.

Next up – cutting the segments.

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