Veneer: A Conversation with Bob Cabral
Sixteen-year veteran of Thos. Moser, Bob Cabral spends most of his day working with veneer in the lamination room. Essentially, he is the one man lamination team and he has a deep appreciation for the art of it. “I find it very satisfying that my pieces come out well and that the cabinet makers are able to work with every single piece that I create,” Cabral expresses.
So, what is veneer? Though its name may sound complicated, veneer is simply thin slices of wood that are adhered together. At the lumber mill, large logs that meet Thos. Moser’s quality standards are placed into a machine, where it is then thinly cut with a knife. These slices are then used to make complex curves and bends while still maintaining the full strength of the wood.
Unfortunately, when people hear “veneer” they often equate it with “low-quality.” Why is there a negative connotation of veneer? Bob Cabral explains, “The difference between our veneer and other manufacturers is that others will take a slice of good veneer and simply place it on top of a core material that is a lot cheaper and of lesser quality.” However, that is not the case here at Thos. Moser, where our focus is on quality, craftsmanship and integrity.
The veneer is kept in a high humidification room to keep the wood soft and pliable. “If the veneer were to be left out, it would crack and break due to excessive drying,” Cabral points out. For the lamination process, it is essential that the wood stays pliable, as it needs to be able to bend into desired shapes and curves.
Bob Cabral applies glue to the slices of veneer, quickly layering them one by one until he reaches the correct thickness.
Cabral starts his day off at 7:00 AM sharp and first looks at his list of pieces he needs to create this week. “Well actually, the first thing I do is have a cup of coffee!” He laughs.
Once he knows what he is making, he starts pulling veneer from the humidification room. He cuts the veneer to the correct measurements and brings it to the glue table. Most of the time he will hand glue, quickly rolling the glue onto the veneer slice and then immediately stacking another slice on top, repeating this process until he gets to the desired thickness.
Here at Thos. Moser, we have two different processes for gluing. There is the radio frequency press which works like a giant microwave and is extremely powerful. “It will give you the shock of your life if you’re not careful,” Cabral warns. The other process is the cold press, where Cabral uses jigs to make custom, flexible bends. The RF press bonds the veneer in a quick thirty seconds, but the cold press can take up to 8 hours to dry.
So, why the two processes? The answer is simple: not everything can fit in the RF press. “If it can fit in the machine, it goes in there. If not, I will use the cold press,” says Cabral.
Once the veneer is dry, Cabral performs his last step which he calls “the stand test.” He places the bonded veneer on the ground and stands on it to test its strength. If it passes this test, it moves on to the other craftsmen to be used.
Veneer In Finished Form: Chaise
The Chaise Lounge has components that are too large and complex to go into the RF press, so Cabral must put them in the cold press. When gluing, he has about 7 minutes from the time he starts, until the time he gets it into the cold press. With at least nineteen layers of veneer needed, this is no easy task. If he doesn’t get it completed in 7 minutes, the boards will stiffen up on him, rendering them useless. When the weather changes in the summer, that 7 minutes becomes 5, so Cabral must work quickly, carefully and efficiently.
“The Chaise is my favorite to make, just because it’s a challenge. Especially during the change in seasons. It keeps me on my toes and I enjoy it.”