In one of my last posts I wrote about natural packaging materials, as bamboo and ceramics. Although requiring special attention during production, natural packaging materials are able to create beautiful packages that turn them into ‘born’ collector’s items with an exceptional high attention value.
One of these materials is wood veneer. Some two years ago, it was around Christmas time, I wrote for a European packaging magazine about a facial tissue packaging made by Northern Sheer Veneer from boxboard laminated with real wood veneer. As I want to write today about wood veneer as packaging material and we are running into the Holiday Season, this packaging came in mind. It is still worthwhile as development and I will repeat the text here, adding some new comments and recently created new packages.
Let’s start with the ecological consequences and eco-friendliness of wood veneer in general and as packaging material in particular. Living myself in the Amazon delta, it is difficult not to be critical to anything and anybody cutting trees. But as everywhere in the world there are selective harvesters with an open eye for sustainability and illegal tree cutters with only big dollar signs in their eyes.
As we talk here about the new packaging developments by Northern Sheer Veneer, we will have a look at their approach to the ecological consequences of tree harvesting. So, please, be aware that my words here are not automatically representative for the American lumber industry as a whole.
Here we go.
Currently Northern Sheer Veneer, based in Ashland Wisconsin/USA, uses Cherry, Maple, and White Birch to manufacture veneer. These three species are sustained and made readily available by local loggers.
When a tree is carefully selected and then harvested it is divided up and distributed to several different wood manufacturing businesses. Branches and limbs of a tree are usually sent to pellet makers for heating, the bulk of the wood is used for dimensional lumber or plank lumber, furniture, cabinetry and of course paper, which leaves about 10% of the tree for veneer manufacturing.
Northern Sheer Veneer produces natural wood veneers with a rotary peel which allows re-rolling it for a multiple of uses, in any commercial industry. The diversity of the product is made possible by its organic qualities, paper like thinness and its earth friendly process of production. As only the finest veneer quality logs are selected, they say, it has less than a one percent impact on the forests of the American Midwest. Even with an impact of less than 1%, Northern Sheer Veneer is planting a new tree for every log it peels.
Using a proprietary water-based method, Northern Sheer Veneer peels wood as thin as 0.006 in. (0,015 mm) from logs across a 60-in. (152 cm) web. The resulting roll of wood – up to 1,000 ft long – is then laminated to another substrate for support and use in paperboard packaging, corrugated or labelling.
To maintain the natural elements of the product, Northern Sheer Veneer does not use any chemicals in its manufacturing and only uses water based adhesives. Combining this with the un-sanded production process a natural and organic product that is true to the touch and texture of natural wood is the result.
As the sheer veneer is very thin it can be laminated to a variety of backings such as white paperboard, craft paper, and latex paper. By adding an extra step a double sided veneer with a poly liner, 5 millimetre latex or paper board in between for durability can be made.
Although sheer veneer can be printed successfully using flexo, offset, and silk screening, sheer veneer is very absorbent and imagery have to be adjusted in prepress to compensate for the additional absorption into the stock. Inks that dry by absorption have the best results.
Much more interesting is the fact that sheer veneer embosses and de-bosses beautifully as the formation of the wood pattern enhances the embossing or de-bossing, and the die impression smoothes the wood pattern. Brass dies give the best impression.
For creating folding cartons cut scoring is the preferred scoring method. The sheer veneer grain direction is opposite of the laminated backer sheet, while scoring with the grain gives the best results.
For the tissue cube project, I was talking about earlier, Northern Sheer Veneer laminated its .006 Cherry to a Meadwestvaco .015 C1/S (C/1S indicates “coated on one side”). Outlook Graphics printed the 30” x 40” sheets on a Komori 44” 6-colour UV press. After die-cutting and scoring the final carton was mechanically converted and the tissues inserted. One Treasure Ltd. provided the licensed Caribbean map image, while Trinova Design reformatted the image to fit the cube’s layout.
The Cherry-wood carton melds easily with home decor or hospitality and resort settings without diminishing the functionality or purpose of the carton.
A more recent example of sheer veneer as packaging material is this Sake packaging that was created for a mock-up by one of Northern Sheer Veneer’s customers. They chose maple Sheer Veneer with white board backing and offset printing. The label on the Sake bottle was printed on a traditional desktop printer.
It is clear, that original and 100% real wood veneer not only transforms a packaging into a beautiful product presentation, but also can be an ecologically sound packaging material, as long as the supplier sustains his ecological responsibilities.