Your Guide to Buying a Wood Veneer Mantelpiece

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Your Guide to Buying a Wood Veneer Mantelpiece

Wood veneer furniture is made by taking thin slices of wood, ranging in thickness from less than a millimetre to around 5 mm, and attaching them to a backing panel, which may be MDF, particle board, solid wood, or another material. Veneers are usually glued to the backing panel. The slices are acquired from blocks of wood or the trunk of the tree itself. Veneers have been used for thousands of years and are not a new fad. The ancient Egyptians, amongst others, manufactured wood veneer furniture. Wood veneer furniture is often overlooked in favour of solid wood, but it has several advantages over solid wood and other materials. Wood veneers are made from a variety of beautiful woods and have the same attractive appearance. They are often, but not always, a more economical choice than solid wood. Responsible use of veneers, where less wood is required and little wood is wasted, can reduce the environmental impact of forestry. Veneer furniture is lighter and easier to move. Modern wood veneers have less problem with the expansion and contraction that can cause warping and splitting in solid wood. And some of the distinctive effects that are possible with wood veneers would not be possible with solid timber. Mantelpieces are shelves that sit above the fireplace and are often part of the surround. The term is also frequently used to include the surround. They were originally constructed to catch the smoke from fires but have become more elaborate and appearance focused over the years. Some historical mantelpieces are extremely ornate, incorporating intricately carved wood panels, sculpted figures and expensive materials. Modern mantelpieces tend to be simpler in design and more suited to contemporary decor, though they are available in a range of styles. They are often constructed using wood veneers.

Choosing Wood Veneer Mantelpieces

Adding as it does to the style of a room, deciding on which wood veneer mantelpiece to choose may seem tricky.

Size and Style

When purchasing a mantelpiece, always measure the dimensions of the room and/or fireplace carefully. If buying for an existing fireplace, make sure the new mantelpiece will sit comfortably. If buying for a new fireplace and/or fire, it is often possible to buy them together as a set. This ensures everything will fit together neatly. Traditional styled mantelpieces are often more ornate while contemporary mantelpieces often feature clean minimalist lines and simple or no ornamentation. Other contemporary mantelpieces may have quirky or unusual features, such as strong wavy lines.

Quality of Wood Veneer

Quality is important when it comes to wood veneer furniture. Higher quality veneers are relatively thick, whereas cheaper veneers can be very thin. The thinner veneers still look beautiful, but over time, they are more easily damaged. Good quality veneers use suitable adhesives and backing panels and appropriate timbers. This results in a product that is strong and durable, lasting for many years.

Species of Wood Veneer

Many species are used for wood veneers. In mantelpieces oak, birch, beech, pine, and mahogany are popular options.




Oak is a durable hardwood with an attractive grain and chemical resistance to insect damage. It is versatile and suited to both traditional and contemporary styles.


Birch is a hardwood with a pale colour, fine grain, and appealing sheen. It is light and strong making it excellent for veneers.


Beech is a hardwood with an attractive golden colour varying from neutral to warm in tone. It has a straight, slightly softened, grain. It is similar to oak in terms of durability.


Pine is a softwood with a warm yellowish colour and various knots and lines in the wood. It is not as hard as oak, but more economical and readily available.


Mahogany is a tropical hardwood with a rich red colour and beautiful lustrous grain. It is hard and durable but can be expensive.

Type of Wood Veneer

There are various types of wood veneer, each with their own characteristics and advantages. The three basic types are raw, backed, and reconstituted.




Raw veneer does not have a backing panel and can be used either side up. They are versatile and available from numerous species of tree and in various grain patterns. They are commonly used for exotic wood species. They are less expensive than veneers with backing panels.


Paper backed veneers have paper backing panels. They are quite common and very versatile. Smaller sheets are joined together before the backing is attached so that paper backed veneers are available in large sheets. This means they are less likely to crack or split when using them for elaborate work such as columns and other curved ornamentation. The other common type of backed veneer is phenolic backed, which has synthetic phenolic backing panels. It is also available in sheets and suitable for curved work.


Reconstituted veneers are made primarily from tropical wood species. Several sheets are laminated together to form a block and this is then sliced in the other direction, across the sheets. This produces an attractive grain effect.

Pattern of Wood Veneer

Wood veneered mantelpieces come in various patterns. These are natural figures, effects obtained from the type of cut or effects from the way the veneers are laid up. Some of the more common types of pattern are listed below.

Natural Patterns



Circles of uneven cell growth side by side. Beautiful appearance and sought after, but indicate damage and can be difficult to work with.


A delicate, even ripple effect. Often found in maple and mahogany. Sought after.


A cross-grain, uneven ripple effect. Due to uneven fibre growth. Often found in birch and maple.


An irregular, variegated pattern. Can have a quite angular and bold effect and high shimmer.

Types of Cut


Flat Cut

Sliced to form an arched “cathedral” grain reminiscent of that found in solid timber. Obtained from slicing at angle tangential to growth rings.

Quarter Cut

Sliced for a straight grain. Some species such as oak have a slight shimmer or flaked effect. Obtained from slicing log into quarters then perpendicular to growth rings.

Ways of Laying Up


Book Matched

Veneers are laid up in alternate ways, face up, and then face down. This can give variations in colour.

Slip Matched

Veneers are laid up in the same way, face up.

Radial Matched

Veneers are cut into wedges and joined.

Diamond Matched

Veneers are formed into diamond shaped patterns.

Find a Wood Veneer Mantelpiece on eBay

Wood veneer mantelpieces are easily found on eBay. From the eBay home page, go to the Home & Garden page and then select All Categories from the tabs. Under Fireplaces & Accessories, select Mantelpieces & Surrounds. The type of wood can then be selected, with options including mahogany,, oak,, pine and teak.. The listings may include mantelpieces made from both solid wood and wood veneers, so check to make sure the mantelpiece is wood veneered and not solid wood. There are also options to choose various styles and to specify a price range or particular brand. Alternatively, the type of wood veneer required can be entered into the search facility, for example, “birch veneer mantelpiece” or “oak veneer mantelpiece”.


Wood veneer mantelpieces are alternatives to mantelpieces made from solid wood, stone, or other materials. Wood veneer furniture has many advantages to solid wood, such as ease of working with, lightness in weight, resistance to cracking and warping, unusual and attractive effects, cost, and environmental impact. Quality is important and high quality wood veneer mantelpieces should last for many years. Popular species for wood veneer mantelpieces include oak, birch, beech, pine, and mahogany. Exotic and highly sought after hardwoods can often be found more readily as veneers as only a small amount of wood is required and they are not prohibitively expensive. Wood veneers feature many different patterns, and these are dependent upon natural features in the wood, the type of cut and the way the veneer is laid up. Wood veneer mantelpieces can make beautiful and charming additions to the home, either to replace an old mantelpiece around an existing fireplace or to complement a new fireplace.

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