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Wood Veneer vs. Solid Wood

Posted on Aug 20, 2012. 0 comments

 

What is the difference between wood veneer and solid wood?

Often people shopping for furniture are uncertain about the difference between wood veneers and solid wood. Many people mistakenly assume that veneered furniture is inferior to or cheaper than solid wood. However, veneers are often used for high-end furniture pieces and can be more costly than solid wood.

Veneering is actually an ancient art that dates back to ancient Egyptian times when veneers were used on their furniture and sarcophagi. In woodworking, veneer refers to thin slices of wood that are glued and pressed onto core panels which can be used for a variety of purposes, such as doors, tops and side panels for cabinets, wood flooring and more.

Veneer is created either by "peeling" the trunk of a tree or by slicing large rectangular blocks of wood. The appearance of the grain and figure in wood comes from slicing through the growth rings of a tree and its appearance varies depending on the angle at which the wood is sliced.

Solid wood furniture

In solid wood furniture, all exposed parts are made of the same species of all-natural wood – the exposed pieces will not contain plywood or particle board.

Advantages of solid wood

It’s practical. Solid wood furniture is durable and easy to repair. Scratches? Dents? Water marks? Stains? It’s all repairable with solid wood. Obviously, the worse the damage, the more expensive it will be to repair. But it will be easier and less expensive than veneer furniture.

Disadvantages of solid wood

It might split. When solid wood furniture is exposed to extreme atmospheric conditions, it will expand or contract and may split along the grain of the wood. Sometimes furniture is constructed using a floating case system, in which table and case-piece surfaces are attached using brackets or elongated holes for screws to slide. This enables furniture to respond to environmental changes without damage. To prevent splitting, it is important to avoid exposing solid wood furniture to strong sunlight or direct heat sources.

Veneer furniture

Veneer furniture is constructed by gluing thin layers of wood veneers together with the grain at right layers over a thick core. With this crisscross design, the chances of splitting or cracking is reduced. The glue used in the process is the same strong, waterproof adhesive used in aircraft and marine construction, so the end result creates a product that is stronger than the natural wood.

High quality veneer furniture will have a solid core and the furniture’s legs, posts, doors or drawer fronts will be straight-grain solid wood.

Advantages of veneer

It’s beautiful. The best and most interesting logs are cut into veneer – typically this is an economic decision. Sellers and veneer makers can make more money from a high quality log that is sliced into veneer than they can from sawing it into boards. And certain cuts, such as burls, are structurally unsound as a solid piece of wood. These beautiful woods can rarely be utilized unless they're sliced into veneer

It’s environmentally kind. With solid wood, timber is typically sawn into 1" thick boards. The saw cuts a kerf between boards 1/4" thick that winds up as sawdust. In contrast, veneer isn’t cut from the log, it’s sliced with a knife – like lunch meat – into 1/32" leaves or sheets. This process produces 32 veneer surfaces for every 1 that is made into a board and, with no wood wasted as sawdust, another 8 sheets are gained where the saw blade would have gone. That's 40 surfaces of wood veneer for every 1 board of solid wood.

It creates new design possibilities. Since veneer is so thin and is glued to a stable substrate, it allows designs and arrangements of the wood that would fail in solid wood. Solid wood, even kiln-dried, expands and contracts as the seasons change from summer to winter and back to summer again. For example, a radiant table top would be impossible to create with solid lumber because the seams would open in the winter and swell tightly shut in the summer.

It’s stable. Since veneer is glued to a stable substrate, it produces surfaces that are not prone to warp, splitting or seasonal movement.

It uses substrates. Plywood and medium density fiberboard are the substrates used in with veneers. The use of these lower quality trees creates a market for landowners with these trees and contributes to better forests over time because the trees remaining grow better and faster with less competition for resources. It’s like weeding your garden, only a lot bigger!

Disadvantages of veneer

It’s thin. This is more of a challenge for the builder than the buyer. During construction, if you sand through a layer of veneer in preparation for finishing it is impossible to repair and frequently involves a redesign or making a difficult repair which could be difficult to hide. However, once the piece is completed the thinness of the veneer is of no concern.

It can blister, delaminate or peel back at the edges. To prevent this, the furniture must be created with proper construction materials and techniques. Early in the 20th century, much mass-produced, low quality veneer furniture was made that haunts furniture makers to this day. Construction techniques and materials have improved considerably in the past few decades to the point where blistering, delaminating and peeling is no longer a legitimate concern when purchasing high quality furniture.

If you would like to learn more and view our selection of solid wood and high-end wood veneer furniture, visit our showroom and speak with one of our interior designers!

About Revolve Furnishings

Revolve Furnishings has provided savvy urbanites with the largest selection of modern furniture in Calgary since 2003. Created to add the fun and inspiration back into furniture shopping, Revolve offers its clientele unique furniture design options, an upbeat atmosphere and the hottest new furniture trends. Step foot into our showroom and you can instantly feel the difference. Gone are the days of elevator music, dark lighting, and pushy design staff. At Revolve, we provide you with modern furniture to fit your unique design needs. Think Sexy. Be Rebellious. Redefine Modern.

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