The Opulence of Veneer in Handicrafts

The Opulence of Veneer in Handicrafts

Veneers are cut from the most beautiful logs and made into thin sheets. These sheets showcase the finest patterns of trees. The process of cutting to finishing highlights the colour, texture, patterns and dimensions of the wood. There are different techniques of cutting the wood. Slicing refers to horizontal or vertical cutting, which gives the veneer parallel fibres. Flat-quarter slicing results in a “cathedral” like structure. Sophisticated looking veneers are created using the rotary peeling technique. As the block of wood is attached at a selected angle to a lathe, it rotates and churns out unique veneer patterns. 

Employing wood veneers for decoration is an ancient art dating back to ancient Egyptian furniture. The patterns on the veneers are used as the artist’s palette, combining different effects of colour, grain, texture and figure to create a desired handicraft. 

Veneers are environmentally friendly as well. Hundreds of pieces of veneer sheets can be made from a square metre of wood as compared to wooden furniture. Due to the cutting process, there is little excess of wood as compared to cutting logs for furniture. This keeps our forests sustainable. 

At ARCH, we value organic natural wood that creates great, intimate art pieces. Coupled with sustainable practices, we create pertinent and enduring handicrafts as premium gifts to inspire generations of unique handicraft connoisseurs.  

The Beauty of Wood


The colour of wood is caused by compounds like tannin, lignin and suberin. These compounds absorb different wavelengths of light which impact the colour of the trunk. Veneers taken from the inner layer of the trunk, known as “heartwood”, is darker as more compounds are deposited there. Sapwood on the outer layer is lighter in colour. 


The texture of wood comes from the dimensions of the cells and the vascular rays. Veneers with smaller cells and thinner vascular rays will feel smoother, resulting in a “fine-textured” feel. Coarse-textured wood have large cells and broad rays. Examples of these include the oak and chestnut. Walnut lies between coarse and fine-textured. How the veneer is cut does not affect its texture. 

Wood Lustre  

Wood lustre is natural. It comes from its cell walls giving it a sheen. However, the wood loses its lustre because of infiltrates. Hence, light-colored hardwoods appear to have more sheen as compared to darker hardwoods. Nevertheless, cutting techniques can restore it.  The quarter-sawn cutting technique, for example, generally gives veneers more sheen. This has to do with exposing the cells to reflect light. Certain arrangement of figures also reflect light. Wavy figures, for example, reflects light on the uneven arrangements of the veneer’s fibres.


What we often think of as patterns on the wood are not wood grains. They are known as figures, though they are affected by wood grain. Wood grain refers to the direction in which its longitudinal fibres (cells) run. There are six types of grains: straight, irregular, diagonal, spiral, interlocked and wavy. Growth factors of the tree affect the grain. Straight grain, where the cells run nearly parallel to the trunk, are commonly used for veneers. The tree can produce extra layers of wood at the bottom to support its weight. This changes its cross-section and grain pattern. Grain also affects the texture of the wood. 


The beautiful patterns, known by their fanciful names like “Fiddleback”, “Bird’s-eye” or “Ribbon”, are the product when different forces of nature interact in the tree’s growth trajectory. Angling the cut during processing can create an increase in sought-after special patterns. Exquisite grain patterns can be created and these can fetch a high price. All in all, the veneer’s elegance is attributed to these figures. 

The veneer’s sheer elegance is attributed to the above factors. ARCH uses a wide range of veneers to compose our handicrafts. Combining different veneers, the natural structure of the veneers imbues form and value to the art work.

Light Veneer Colours (Maple, Figured Angere, etc.) 

The Last Supper

Light veneer is contrasted against darker veneers to create an impression of light in the room. The ambience is gentle and comfortable. The tapered walls suggests the depth of the room expressing how light sufficiently fills the room from the front. The mixture of brown hues of the garb draws attention to the spirited connection between Jesus and his disciples. The unsaturated effect of yellow hints at a quiet and personalized moment.

MAG0021-CT1 (The Last Supper)

Chinese Opera Frame

Cuttings on the wood transforms the light colours into something more alluring. It brings to attention the makeup of the performers. The creamy-white veneer base also reflects light. This portrays both the glow of stage light on the performers and the glow of their evoked passion. The grain of the wood enlivens the moves, creating a 3-D effect on the carvings. This displays the hallmarks of exemplary craftsmanship in a culturally rich and timeless art piece. This is a Singapore heritage gift that celebrates the arts. 

Medium-brown Colours (American Cherry, Walnut, etc.)

Chinese Opera

Just Married Frame

The beautiful warm hues adds to the enthrallment of reaching the next step of their relationship for a newly-wed couple. The figures in the veneer slide smoothly. In elevated lines sloping up, then flowing down, it tells the story of the couple’s love story and the fairy-tale life ever after. The direction of the grain wraps their warm embrace in heartfelt tenderness. The colour heightens the melodic moment of sweet romance. Altogether, this unique veneer wood handicraft projects harmony and suspension of time in the truest moments of love. It stands true as a loving gift idea from Singapore. 

WS0028 – 46 - Just Married


Owl Frame

In contrast to the elation of getting married, the brown owl brings out the comfort of staying close to each other. It conveys that home is a complete and safe haven. It uses the charms of simplicity to convey a wholesome place and a warm dwelling. The light yellow wood forest depicts how a loving family can turn the wilderness into a home to live in stability and security. 

WS0028-47 - Owl(1)

Interestingly, brown is not just an ordinary, boring colour. Brown evokes happiness in both frames and ideas that we cherish. All these hinges on the artist’s ability to use the finesse of wood in making handmade gifts. 

 Dark-brown Colours (Ebony Black, etc.)

Year of the Dragon Frame 


The use of the darkest range of veneer on the body of the dragon represents power. This dramatises the scales on the dragon. Lighter yellow streaks against the dark body of the dragon draws attention to the serpentine-like structure of its body, conveying its unyielding authority. The horizontal grain of the wood adds layers to its physique. This culminates in a 3-D effect of the body and magnifies the dragon’s power. 

Buddha – Volcanic Stone Head Frame

R_1 Java Buddha Frame

In contrast, the use of a darker shade of wood conveys serenity in this piece. Black/dark brown is formal and powerful, yet deep. Here, it reflects the serenity of the Buddha, subjugating his self, with black indicating an absence of self-centredness. The lighter gradient of the tone above the nose reflects the significance of mind over matter. The conspicuous flashes and “rough” surface across the face reflects his transcendent humanity and suffering. The classical technique, Chiaruscuro, is used in an Asian style, heightening the interplay of light over darkness, good over evil. All these add up to a picture that depicts tranquility upon enlightenment. 

Unlike medium-brown wood, dark brown wood lends a dramatic effect to the subject. It adds substance to influence and highlight the subject matter. Dark brown wood creates great art works that can be presented as premium and corporate gifts. 

Purchasing a veneer frame from ARCH is a personal and heartfelt encounter with a unique piece of art. Trees have a storied past and no two pieces of wood are the same. When you are selecting your frame, be sure to pay close attention to the figures of the wood and the colours. Like a good art connoisseur, you might find that certain aspects of the veneer and its combination speaks to you about certain defining moments of your life.

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