Hickory, like oak and ash, is a hard, durable wood with a somewhat austere though stately appearance. It is extremely strong and widely used to make solid-wood furniture and tool handles.
Still, to save costs and reap all the aesthetic beauty of hickory wood, some craftsmen prefer the use of hickory veneer, since this wood veneer receives a wide range of stains and finishes well.
But hickory veneer, also like oak and ash, has a somewhat porous grain structure. This could make it susceptible to a condition known as “tear-out” which occurs when cutting across the fibers of the grain.
This article will cover what it is and how to prevent it.
What Is Tear-Out in Hickory Veneer?
Tear-out is a condition that occurs along the length of a cut that runs more or less perpendicular to the grain of wood, rather than along it.
It occurs when the grain’s fibers shear away from each other before being severed by the cutting blade, causing them to be cut (or to break) at different lengths and angles.
This leaves an ugly, ragged cut behind, which is known as tear-out. Fortunately, there are things you can do about it.
Use a Very Sharp Blade; Avoid a Saw If Possible
Saws are notorious for causing tear-out as the teeth pull on the wood fibers before cutting them. If you must use a saw, use one with very fine teeth.
Otherwise, use a craft knife or some other blade with a very sharp, very fine edge. The sharper the blade, the more efficiently it will
Tape Along the Line You’re Going to Cut
Though it takes a little longer, it’s good practice to tape right along the edge where you’re planning to make a cut. You can use painter’s tape for this if you so desire, because it is strong but releases freely.
Taping along the place where you plan to cut will hold the fibers together while cutting, helping to prevent them from shearing away from each other and leaving that signature ragged “tear-out” edge.
Score the Cut First
If using a knife to cut hickory veneer, score the cut several times first, lightly, with the blade you’re going to use.
Scoring helps create a weak point along which the fibers will cleave, helping to minimize the risk of tear-out.
Press the Blade Into the Cut, Don’t Drag It
When using a knife to cut hickory veneer sheets or panels, a good practice is to press down into the veneer sheet, rather than pulling or dragging the knife along it.
Downward pressure helps to cut through the fibers by compressing them, and they’re less likely to tear away from each other if cut in this fashion.
If You’re Cutting a Piece of Plywood or MDF That’s Already Veneered, Use a Zero-Clearance Insert
While it’s inadvisable to cut veneer in this manner once it’s already been applied to a substrate, there are some situations in which you might not have a choice.
So, if you must cut a piece of substrate, such as a plywood or MDF panel, that already has had hickory veneer applied to it, and you’re going to use a saw, use a saw with fine teeth and use a zero-clearance insert. When crosscutting, set the blade so that the tips of three teeth go through the panel.
This, like the other tips mentioned here, can help mitigate the shearing forces that cause tear-out.
High-Quality Hickory Veneer for Your Projects
It also helps to start your project with hickory veneer sheets and panels that exhibit high quality in the first place. HIckory is available in calico (two-tone), as well as in uniform color, and rustic knotty random plank.
For all Hickory and other wood veneers, visit Oakwood Veneer via the previous link. They carry a wide range of rustic, knotty, quartered, and flat-cut veneer sheets and panels (including peel and stick veneers), with a great variety of exotic and domestic species in addition to hickory.