Wood by Design - ALPI spa


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Welcome to our presentation, wood by design.

Learning Aims

Today we will be explaining:

  • What decorative surfaces in reconstituted wood veneer are.
  • In terms of manufacturing cycle and application and how raw materials are transformed in reconstituted wood veneer, and exploring the process from tree trunk to square trunk, the sustainability and certifications achieved. We will focus on the coordinated products in reconstituted wood veneer available for the market.
  • The correct use and application and a final view of the collaboration with designers and a portfolio of joint projects.


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ALPI was the first company in the world to industrialise the manufacturing process and it is still the leader in the production of decorative surfaces in reconstituted wood veneer. From a humble carpentry workshop with founder Pietro Alpi in 1919 and spanning three generations, the ALPI family remain at the helm of the company today. The carpentry workshop progressed to an industrial firm, specialising in the production of prefabricated panels and wooden surfaces for the still nascent furniture sector which began in the 1950s.


In 1961 the product ALPI lignum was introduced. It is the first composite veneer and still the brands most representative item. A true revolution made possible by extraordinary technological research and an extensive background in cabinetmaking, providing major investments in research and development and constant analysis and understanding of the market, and always in search of new stylistic and product trends.


Today ALPI is headed by Vittorio Alpi, grandson of the founder. With industrial facilities of 180,000 square meters in Italy and 346,1500 square meters in Africa. The production capacity is over 30 million square metres per year for capillary distribution in over 60 countries. Africa represents an important chapter in the history of ALPI as the main source for raw material. Thanks to the intuition of Valerio ALPI of building a barge as a floating processing plant, which from the port of Ravenna was towed to Africa. Starting in 1975 ALPI began operating firstly in Cameroon and then in the Ivory Coast.


Today the company holds licences for the management of 500,000 hectares of African forest. Ensuring the growth of local communities in terms of economics and infrastructure, thus combining the core business with activities of social and environmental sustainability. The synergy between the African facilities and the mother company in Mode Ileana is very close. The production process can be customised for every single project, the product comes to life based on the aesthetic and performance needs of the client, the field of application and the required technologies.


ALPI through its technical consulting services accompanies clients in every phase from design to post sales service, offering complete assistance step by step. The four strongpoints in ALPI's strategy are:

  • Eco responsibility; that is environment and social responsibility.
  • Quality; in terms of high quality of raw materials and direct control of the entire supply and production chain. Maintaining technological innovation through the culture of craftsmanship.
  • Design; the collaboration with designers extends the range of articles available.
  • Customization; maximum customization to fit standards at the project and fulfilled client’s expectations.


Thanks to the vision of Vittorio ALPI the profound synergy with the world of design from the 1980s onwards, has led to prestigious collaborations over the years, with outstanding names in international design including Piero Lissoni the art director since 2015. Martino Gamper based in London. Ettore Sottsass and Atelier Mendini from Milan. Gamfratesi that work in Copenhagen.


Front design from Stock Holme. The Campana brothers from Brazil. And Kengo Kuma from Japan.


From wood to wood.

The raw materials used and transformed in reconstituted wood veneer are popular, basswood and ayous, certified eco sustainable woods.


The high quality of products comes from the direct control of the entire supply and production chain from the log to the finished product, through forestry management that guarantees legal and sustainable origin of wood, and total product traceability.


Ayous comes from Cameroon and it is a spontaneous tropical forest wood. Here is a summary of the criteria for sustainable tropical forest management:

  • Selective cutting, only a few trees per hectare are selected for harvesting.
  • Respect for the natural growth rate, 30 years with a rotative harvesting plan allowing the regrowth of the woody forest capital before the next cut.
  • Waste minimization, whole harvested trees are used part for timber part for peeled veneer.
  • Protection of the surrounding forests, lying vegetation and the soil using trucks with rubber wheels avoiding track laying vehicles.
  • Protection of water sources, avoiding deviation of creeks and small rivers.
  • Minimaliisng disturbance, keeping in mind that animals like gorillas live in the forest.
  • Maintaining the rights and benefits of local populations in terms of their education and health assistance, but also respect of the holy areas and cemeteries, avoiding any forest operation.


Poplar is an agricultural renewable wood that grows in northern Italy farms. Basswood comes from forests from North America and East Europe. The pictures that follow show peeled ayous, Poplar and Bass wood. On the left you see the raw veneers and on the right the same veneer after bleaching. The bleaching process is the first step in transformation and allows maximum yield on the utilization of wooden sheets. The manufacturing cycle of reconstituted wood veneer is called the squaring of the wood. The process of the transformation of a tree's cylindric trunk to a square engineered trunk. Peeling, dyeing, gluing, pressing, saw, slicing cut is the production sequence of reconstituted wood veneer. To transform raw peeled veneer into infinite varieties and decorative effects.


Peeling the bark of the log is removed. The trunk is peeled and same size thin leaves of wood a clipped.


Dyeing the wood leaves are dyed by immersion. The final colour of the wood is defined. Gluing and pressing the wood leaves are glued and overlaid to create a final squared trunk. The trunk is shaped in curved moulds that determine the wood grain.


Saw the squared trunk is disassembled and assembled in order to define the final vein of the wood and colour according to the designers need.


Slicing cut, the squared trunk is sliced into decorative wood leaves. Each leaf is consistent for colour, vein and dimension.


Sustainability and certifications covers both environmental and social responsibility. Sustainability is guaranteed by a complete transparency of the entire process. Constantly focusing on excellence in the use of natural resources. Only the reconstituted wood veneer made with certified sustainable sources, directly controlled for maximum respect of environmental biodiversity is certified. Maximum care for Environmental Protection includes an advanced industrial water purification system and provide safety in the workplace.


Furthermore the direct management of Equatorial forests is a major social responsibility for companies that care about the environment. Social responsibility means protecting projects and plans for the safeguarding and benefits of local populations that are implemented and supported constantly.


Available certifications are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), which guarantees sourcing from properly and responsibly managed forests, in keeping with rigorous environmental, social and economic standards. OLB Origine et Légalité du Bois, which certifies the legality and traceability of forestry operations and the industrial wood processing in the Cameroon. Poplar origin certification issued by SGS guarantees renewability and the concrete commitment of the company in responsible management of raw materials. Also using local agricultural resources.


The commitment to ecology and sustainability is confirmed offering a solution to the problem of formaldehyde emission that has been a concern for many years in the wooden products. The most environmentally responsible reconstituted wood veneers are in compliance with formaldehyde emission allowed by E1 standard. They are available with two more levels of formaldehyde emissions below the E 1 standard such as B E low emission, with a formaldehyde emission level equal to a fraction of the E1 standard. Zero F version with zero added formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a preservative that naturally occurs in wood and it must be taken into consideration that traces will occur.


The use of environmentally responsible reconstituted wood veneers and non-toxic heavy metal free dyes water based and eco-friendly as used in the textile industry contributes to the achievement of LEED credits.


Reconstituted wood products available for the market are:

  • raw decorative surfaces,
  • prefinished decorative surfaces.
  • Raw decorative surfaces are made with real wood, engineered, non-printed and designable. The advantages are:
  • Uniformity of colours and patterns overtime
  • Absence of the natural wood defects (knots and colour variation),
  • Standardised sizes for the industry.
  • Significant reduction of production waste 5% instead of 30% of the natural wood.

Their usage sectors are various:

  • Sufaces for finishings 
  • Surfaces and facings for interior architecture,
  • Hotels, multi-apartment and residential complexes,
  • Shops, retail outlets, offices, public spaces,
  • Window and door frames, internal use,
  • Wall panelling, acoustic panelling,
  • surfaces and facings for the interiors of yachts and cruise ships,
  • automotive,
  • objects.


Application of raw decorative surfaces follows three steps.

  1. veneering, it can be glued on wood backings like MDF, plywood, chipboard, honeycomb, using urea glues, vinyl glues or hot melt resins. Each support is potentially suitable subject to application and performance tests.
  2. sanding, it must be sanded in order to prepare and clean the surface for the third step that is varnish application.
  3. varnishing, the varnishing process uses a suitable finish that protects and preserves the veneer surface from chemical and physical deterioration (like photo degradation and decay), and also mechanical degradation (like scratches dents etcetera).


Prefinished decorative wooden surfaces are clear coated finish and high wearing resistance finish. Both products are ready for application to any type of support. Coordinated edge banding supported by ABS are available in rolls. A test needs to be undertaken to determine the overall finished product fire rating in order to satisfy the relevant regulatory requirements.


Prefinished products advantages are:

  • Ready to use, the handiness of prefinished veneer in high quality showing the beauty of the wood, 
  • Guaranteed results, it represents the best result in terms of finish quality. 


Instructions for maintenance.

They are easy to clean with a damp natural fibre cloth dipped in distilled water. If necessary, add non-abrasive neutral detergent. Never use acetone, alcohol or varnish solvent on it. Store the sheets horizontally face to face in an environment with temperature between 10 degrees Celsius and 30 degrees Celsius and the relative humidity between 40% and 60%. Put the sheets on a pallet never laid directly on the floor, protect sheets from light dust moisture with non-transparent dark coverings. Sheets should always be handled by two people.


Here you have a summary display of the products application stages. Raw decorative surfaces need to be veneered on wood backing, sanded and then varnished; while prefinished decorative surfaces need only to be veneered. Designers and architects through the years have chosen reconstituted wood veneer as a solution and instrument for designing textures and decorative effects for their projects. The inspiration is natural wood or other textures. Designers define trends and fashions of colours shades and designs. For Piero Lissoni the Xilo collection is inspired by natural Woods.


Soolon in ancient Greek means wood. The future trend forward is fruit trees with warm tones of colours between pink and red. The special interpretation of cherry wood shows the force of its colours. In three contemporary gradually shaded tones, ranging from the pink blush cherry to the honey cherry up to the Amber of Sienna cherry. Two types of grain striped and flamed permit greater design freedom in the combination of different hues and textures. Walnut shows the warm enveloping Brown tone of Canaletto Walnut The actual trend for Woods. Balanced chromatic range of four colours in a sequence from pale to dark, white, sand, grey and black. For this model the inspiration comes from the texture of the wooden floor of the velodromes for track cycling.


Piero Lissoni has created a light delicate slated design by selecting four types of Woods, obtaining four variations, natural, brown, mocha and sand. A geometric texture please on the combination of natural tones and colour accents for dynamic compositional effects. An exciting challenge that led Martino Gamper to gradually interpret the wood by dissecting and re composing it. A concept of game.



Inspired by the rain and the clouds and impressionistic vision of nature focusing on instance of life through the artistic approach of ukiyo-e. Filtered by the fluid minimalist language typical of the conceptual work of designers Gam Fratesi one captures the impalpable light essence of rainfall through a stylised representation of water drops. The other transforms clouds into a graphic sign on a black background. Inspired by pointillisme, a re-edition of the first wood made by the Atelier Mendini in 1991, one coloured solar and one in different shades of lunar grey. Tre primitivi are 3 pieces of furniture designed by Alessandro Mendini and named after the main characters of "Without colours" in Italo Calvino's cosmi comics, realised with the reconstituted wood veneer inspired by pointillisme.

Inspired by the sushi collection created in 2002 by the Campana brothers. An oneiric interpretation of the immense creativity of the Brazilian duo, charged with thoughts, poetry, energy and colour. Two chromatic versions brown and slate grey, with contrasting details in gold and silver. The Campana brothers get inspired by Piaçava the Brazilian name of a native coconut balm. These strong fibres are used to build the roof of huts. As well as by Pirarucu one of the world's largest freshwater fish species typical of the Amazon River. The name comes from the Tupi language meaning fish- Pira and red- arucu, referring to the colour of its scales which are mostly silver but become reddish towards the tail.


Kengo Kuma is inspired by tree barks. The bark of the maritime pine tree a thick substance split by deep cracks with segments of irregular form varying from warm reddish tones to cold shades of light Grey. The bark of the Japanese Cedar tree that varies from red to brown also in terms of the alterations that happen as the tree grows.


In the section closer to the roots the bark appears smooth becoming more furrowed and vertically split towards the top of the tree. Front design creates two tones pattern generating an optical illusion of movement like a drapery. Another reconstituted wood veneer created by the duo from Sweden is based on an antique pattern of a reticular structure applying four different colours joined by the traditional inlay technique to create the illusion of a Tri dimensional grid.


Inspired by textiles Matteo Ronnie has taken a sartorial approach the utterly novel textures of this reconstituted wood cannot be found in nature. But are inspired by the classic weaves of menswear fabrics. Twill, pinstripe, corduroy and herringbone.


An innovative pattern by Ettore Sottsass was born in the 1980s first used in the 1985 Memphis collection and then for later works. It recaptures the colours of natural Woods accentuating their value and exalting their texture through the distinct markings of the veining. Evoking the unusual and irreverent language of the master.


Reconnection interface is the different design approach of two designers. The innovative wood pattern realised by Ettore Sottsass in 1985 with the interpretation of Martino Gamper. Martino Gamper worked directly on the solid wood cutting it with different angles to realise 3 new veins that differ from Sottsass's original. He subsequently reconnected and reassembled the pieces to create a new pattern for the models on display.


Examples of application of Reconstituted Wood Veneer

Examples of application of reconstituted wood veneer used to enhance the design project follow in the next pictures. This is a piece of furniture by Cassina called Hayama designed by Patricia Urquiola a grey reconstituted burl is used. Tabletops with a reconstituted wood veneer inspired by burl and by marquetry technique realised for a hotel in Venice.


In the Elle decor Grand Hotel Milano, designed by the architectural firm Neri and Hu based in Shanghai. A reconstituted wood veneer inspired by Walnut wood was specified.


In the Hilton Hotel in Como, Italy, the designers Limonta Cazzaniga architects specified dark reconstituted wood veneer for corridors and cabinets.


Aranda Lasch specifies grey reconstituted wood veneer for a sophisticated wall display of bags.


This is a private apartment designed by Atelier Zero Studio using a reconstituted wood veneer inspired by light Walnut.


In this yacht Piero Lissoni specified alight reconstituted wood veneer for ceiling steps and wall panelling. Reconstituted wood veneer is exclusively used in automotive interiors. A custom bright reconstituted wood veneer has been created for a collection of drums by Sonor.


Solid reconstituted wood is used to fabricate unique pencils. Asplund Pavillion was built for the 16th international architecture exhibition of the Venice Biennale at Isola Di San Giorgio designed by Mep studio. Francesco Magnani and Traudy Pelzel. It is conceived as the introduction to the pavilion of the Holy See called Vatican Chapels to exhibit original drawings by Gunnar Asplund for the Woodland Chapel. The pavilion embodies the essence of traditional Scandinavian wooden constructions.


Stave churches, the structure 11 meters long and 8 metres high is shaped as a prismatic crystal form entirely cladded in solid reconstituted wood. Experimental material for the external facings of the construction were engineered and manufactured for this purpose. 9,000 wood shingles were created to clad the pavilion to enhance the external image of the building. The interior is faced in reconstituted wood veneer striped white to create a muted intimate atmosphere.

Learning Outcomes

Today we have discussed decorative surfaces in reconstituted wood veneer into terms of manufacturing cycle and applications. Raw materials transformed in reconstituted wood veneer, the production process from tree trunk to a square trunk, sustainability and certifications, coordinated products available for the market, the correct use, application and design project references.


The following video displays all points previously explained. Video.


"Is a naturally occurring raw material that is renewable, has always been indispensable to man. There are imitations of wood moulded products that recreate its colours and effects that are in reality synthetic and non-natural materials. Traditional wood in its specific essences is a resource that should be controlled in order to avoid waste and to protect types of wood that are becoming increasingly rare. Have you heard about ALPI? We are an Italian company founded in 1919. We produce reconstituted wood which we guarantee comes from eco responsible origins and is traceable and sustainable. We offer a wide range of product from classic rare and luxurious to those more creative in their design.


Our quality guarantees resistance to light and consistency in representation and colour. We provide specific solutions for niche companies as well as production capacity and customization for the demands of larger brands. Our wood comes from Italian Poplar plantations and basswood trees from European and American forests. The fast growing timber is cut when it has matured in order to leave space for new growth thus maintaining a consistent natural balance. Our use on the other hand comes from Equatorial forest in the Congo basin ALPI maintains forestry concessions stretching for around 500,000 hectares, we take this commitment very seriously because we believe that working in a rainforest brings great responsibility. The forest must be treated with respect for the people that live in it and for the floor and fauna.


We invest plenty of resources to make sure this happens. Usage occurs at a withdrawal rate allowing for a renewal capacity that is ongoing in small areas divided in accordance with the precise adjustment plan. These are then left to rest for 30 years so that they can be rebuilt. This sivy cultural management suitable for tropical environment guarantees the renewal of the forest and its sustainable use also providing a contribution to the economic growth of developing countries. We have also obtained certifications that bear witness to the traceability and sustainability of our wood. TFT assists us with implementing ongoing improvements in the management of the forests and relationships with local people in order to safeguard culture and traditions. We can guarantee that ALPI wood provides all this because we are committed to the responsible and direct management of the entire production chain in terms of maintaining biodiversity and protecting people. How is ALPI reconstituted wood produced?


The trunks of popular lime and R use are flaked and immersed in water soluble colour tanks the dyes are completely non-toxic free from heavy metals and are also used in the clothing industry. We rigorously comply with regulations on non-toxic paint. Laws that do not exist in every country. This is also why it is important to be aware of the origins of a product. Once it is dry the wood is reconstituted by overlapping and sticking the dyed flakes. The various coloured predictions allow for realistic or novelty textures to be obtained depending on the requirements of the market or the client. The flakes are reassembled and pressed to make the reconstituted wood which is then cut and tested. Choosing reconstituted would safeguards rare species and its use produces very little waste as the defects typical of traditional types of wood are not present. ALPI reconstituted wood is a product that originates from responsible and direct management of the production chain while respecting nature and its equilibrium. It is created in both classical and innovative tailor made designs which are used by designers’ architects and interior designers. It is also particularly popular with those who love Italian design. It is real wood but it has evolved and is even better because it is consistent and stable. It is perfect both for industrial use and small production."

 Thank you for your time today.

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