Right, so I've invested waaaayyy... too much time in working this out. Looked for fibre veneer, imported some stained poplar (turned out to be too small), found local vendors of similar stuff and the best thing I can find is this... http://www.briggs.com.au/veneer_details.php?id=244
It's 0.6mm thick and $80 for 2500 x 640mm. I've looked at the spec sheet and it's recycled timber. What I'm wondering is, how is it really any different to cardboard. Now sure, the dye in cardboard is water based and this would be mineral based, but aside of that, I'm struggle to see the difference.
I did a test piece with some pine with purple cardboard laminated between it a few weeks back. I then tru-oiled it and left it. The cardboard hasn't swelled or anything, so I think it's safe. The only potention issue I see is the dye running a little during gluing, but after sanding, it all seems to be clean and neat.
Appreciate your thoughts on whether I'm just being a dangerous tightwad or if this would actually work...