A sunburst is a beautiful decorative technique used in furniture making. It is often used on table tops, cabinets or even jewellery boxes, and is created by arranging multiple small triangular pieces of wood in a radial pattern.
Each triangular piece will extend outwards from a central point to resemble the rays of the sun. The grain and figuring of the wood can be used to create both dramatic and stunning effects in many different woods. In my work I tend to use 12, 24 or 32 triangles of veneer to create a single sunburst.
Cabinetmakers use veneer to create decorative work such as a sunburst, or marquetry or parquetry, because of the stability of veneer over solid wood. Solid wood can move on a daily basis with changes in humidity. On a particularly humid day, wood will take on moisture and expand, by up to 3%, and on a dry day, wood will lose moisture, shrinking, by up to 3%. This constant movement of solid wood may result in a sunburst pulling itself apart over time. In contrast, once a veneer is glued in place it will not move.
A veneer can also be a more sustainable and effective way of using rare, or highly figured woods. A single piece of beautiful wood can be sliced into many thin leaves of veneer at 0.6, 1, 1.5, or 2 mm thickness, meaning a small amount of wood can be used to cover a much larger area
Creating a sunburst is a slow, precise technique requiring specialist tools, skill, precision and patience. Each triangle should meet in the center at a single point, with the pattern radiating out. The grain of the wood may be straight, figured or even burr, however the result is always dramatic and pleasing, weather used on a cabinet, table top or jewellery box.