Looking for a tough, dark wood veneer for edging that can take some "handling traffic".


Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Established Member
UKW Supporter
2 Jul 2022
Reaction score

I'm looking for an alternative to smoked oak veneer which I've been using for edging recently. It works quite well, but until the finish(es) are on, it's very easy to split out long stringy bits of grain which are tough to repair (invisibly). The most vulnerable period is during trimming of the edging itself (post gluing) and then when sanding the adjacent faces. I've found ways around it, most of which involves going s-l-o-o-o-o-w. But after finishing, if the oak edging does take a substantial knock, it tends to squash instead of chip, which is good. I think the long open grain absorbs some impact by deforming and it doesn't look so bad after a bit of spit and a rub, and pushing back into shape. This edging is expected to bear significant, repetitive handling and knocks - and will show it.

I was wondering if some other wood might be even better suited to this than the oak (which is crown cut red oak in this case).

Note: It has to be wood veneer, but I can't use iron-on as the heat would permanently damage magnets under the edging (and iron-ons tend to be too thin anyway). Standard 0.6 mm - ish raw veneer preferred. I could stain it pre-use, but would prefer a naturally dark wood - the darker, and tougher the better.

Any suggestions?

Ebony is notoriously splitty, and I suspect African Blackwood is frighteningly expensive (plus CITES listed, if you export).

I'd certainly give rosewood a try. I have a well played guitar whose fretboard shows little wear after 90 years.
Thanks for the suggestions folks. Has to be thin veneer. African Blackwood looked promising, but is even scarcer as a veneer than it is in small blocks. Ebony is splitty (and subject Cites now). I tried a couple of versions of ebony (Macassar and "real") and both split often at the edges when sanding the face veneers they protected. Ebony veneers seem to be a lot thinner than average too - often <0.5mm which isn't ideal.

Rosewood is definitely worth a look though. I'd mentally categorised it as a pretty wood rather than a tough one, but forgot all about use for fingerboards etc. There are quite a few dark ones around too. Indian looks to have the darkest options available, but no idea on quality. I'll grab a few samples and try it out. Thanks for that.

FWIW - this is for edging the squares of my "build it one square at a time" chess board project. There are many reasons for approaching it this way, not least the neat new capabilities it enables, but I'll get to that in a separate thread when I'm a bit further along. I only have "working prototype" parts to show at present.

For now, just for decoration, here's a prototype, 65mm square that has been "stress tested". It was carried in a pocket with loose change for a week, then kicked around the room, banged repeatedly on the table, thrown against the wall (which it damaged) and even dropped on concrete from chest height (that's how it lost the edging top right). The face veneer was a "not so nice" piece used for testing an adhesive option. It's subsequently been re-sanded and re-finished at least 4 times - for proving/testing processes and different finishes. It must be <0.2 mm thick by now - it might have one more test left in it. There's a burl oak on the other side though, and that's only been refinished twice - so more left there.

One benefit of the single-square approach is the ability to pick the nicest parts of the veneer from the sheet(s) and "compose" them nicely within the bounds of each square. With the usual checkerboard strip-oriented approach to building, there's a lot less (if any) scope for that. Of course, it's extremely wasteful of expensive materials, but there's always marquetry to use up the ample leftovers - eventually, at some point, maybe...


But look what you get to use - 32 (+spares) squares of drop-dead gorgeous wood porn. Drool. These are destined to be one side of the "dark squares" in the first board (the other side sports a plain but elegant ebony macassar). I'll leave the species of this one as a quiz question...

Latest posts