The briar

We know what briar mouldings are but we know little or nothing about "briar" and how it is produced.

In another article we explained what veneered mouldings are. This article analyzes a particular aspect, that-is the veneer made with briar.

By briar we mean a mass of woody fabric with an abnormal structure characterized by irregular veins. In trees, briar is mostly located near the roots, but it can also form in various points of the stem.
Sometimes the briar belongs completely to the root of the tree and therefore is covered by the soil. This is the case of heather in which the enlarged root constitutes the so-called pipe log. More often it appears, however, as an enlargement or outgrowth of the tree trunk, both at the base and along the trunk.

The fibers of the briar are not arranged in a longitudinal and parallel direction, but instead are twisted and tangled.
Physiologically speaking, briar is a defect because it represents a deviation from the normal constitution of wood. In reality, if compact, free of cavities and bark residues, it becomes a very valuable material.
The wood species that most frequently present briar formation are walnut (Turkey and Persian walnut briars are extremely valuable), elm, maple, ash, birch, black poplar and many tropical species.

With briar you can obtain pieces suitable for fantasy works, table services, pedestals, pipes, etc.
The most important use, however, consists in the use of briar veneers. With briar blocks, in fact, it is possible to obtain veneers, that is, very thin sheets.
The thickness of the cut sheets is normally 3/10 of a millimeter but can also be only 2/10 of a mm.
In the past, briar blocks were sawn into thin layers to obtain veneers. With this system, however, there was a lot of waste due to the thickness of the circular blade. Nowadays, it is preferred to cut the briar with a kind of slicing machine, that is, with the same system with which the ham is cut. In this way, very thin slices can be obtained without any waste of wood.
The "slices" of briar after being cut, are stored neatly in the same sequence in which they were cut. They are then sold together for a more efficient use by the buyer.
The cutting operation dates back to ancient Egypt where it was used to decorate furniture and sarcophagi. Even in ancient Rome, wood cutting was widely used.

The briar veneers on the market

On the market briar veneers are found in these ways:

Raw veneers without any treatment.
Possono essere utilizzati in entrambe le facciate.

Laid up veneers.
They are pieces of various sizes joined together to obtain larger sheets and easier to use.

Paper backed veneer.
With this system small pieces can be put together to obtain a larger sheet, that is, a kind of collage. This makes it easier to veneer curved and uneven surfaces.

Wood on Wood, also called 2-py
similar to paper-baked veneers with the difference that the coupling is not with paper but with another wooden veneer arranged in the other direction (as in the plywood panel).

Recon veneers
which are obtained with a fairly complex technique. It is a little used method for which we do not give other explanations, just know that they exist.

Generally the price of briar veneers is calculated based on the size of the sheet (i.e. per square meter). The veneers of the same cutting operation must be sold together to facilitate use.
The production of veneers is quite complex and expensive especially in terms of processing times. For this reason it has had a greater development in areas where the cost of labor is as low as in China and India.

The veneers of artificial briar

With current technology and the way artificial veneers are produced today, it is very difficult to distinguish between natural and artificial veneers. There is the possibility of being cheated during the purchase, and of purchasing an artificial veneer instead of a genuine veneer of natural briar. To avoid being cheated, you should examine the following three characteristics of the veneers: thickness of the veneers, grain, purchase price.
Let's briefly examine these three characteristics:

Thickness of the veneers
The thickness of the veneer is generally about 0.3 mm or greater.
Take, for example, the natural teak veneer: its thickness ranges from 0.3 mm to 0.4 mm. If you happen to find a teak veneer thinner than this, it is probably a veneer made in China where the thickness is very low (even 0.1 mm).
The thinner the veneer, the shorter its life. Furniture made with too thin veneers could be easily damaged. Good quality veneers are increasingly thick and robust.
Three years ago the ratio for Indian and Chinese veneers was 50% - 50%. But now 50% of Chinese products are reduced to 15% because the trend is to buy quality products. So the demand for Indian veneers has increased considerably. Resources are limited and the demand for natural veneers has increased.

Grain of veneers
Another way to check if the veneer is natural is to observe its grain.
The artificial veneers do not show a grain to be defined as "genuine". This is because they are made with wood shavings, fibers, threads, etc. which are then crushed and pressed with pigments, chemical agents, coloring agents.
It is rather difficult to distinguish between natural and artificial veneers. It would be preferable to rely on trusted professionals during the purchase.

Cost of veneers
If you are shown two similar veneer sheets with a significant price difference, we recommend that you opt for the more expensive veneer. Natural briar veneers will always be more expensive than artificial veneers.

The application of briar to mouldings

The briar veneers to be used for mouldings are generally supplied in sheets 3 meters long and 14 cm wide obtained by combining various pieces of veneer (like a collage). These sheets are often supplied already glued on a wooden board which has the same size as the sheets, i.e. 3 meters long and 14 cm wide. The thickness of the board is generally 15 mm. The wood used as a base can be of various types: pine, fir, etc.
Moulding manufacturers then saw the boards longitudinally to obtain the shape of the mouldings to the desired size.
Generally it is preferable to obtain the template in double and then separate the two mouldings at the end of production.

Note that with this system the briar is applied only on the front of the moulding but not on the back. In fact, the back of the briar moulding is almost always black.

As you can understand, this system is used only for flat mouldings. If the shape of the moulding is curved, the briar veneer must be applied to the wood in a different way.
The moulding is then passed with protective varnishes and often also with varnishes that modify the natural finishing of the briar. With paint, for example, a more or less glossy finishing can be obtained. With varnishes it is also possible to significantly alter the color: for example, the walnut briar could appear as elm briar, that-is, much lighter.