July 25, 2017

A popular and cost effective alternative to solid wood furniture is veneer furniture. This is due to the fact that it is manufactured instead of harvested, veneers can be designed to give the appearance of a wider variety of wood finishes. Often you can find pieces that are finished in exotic species of wood that may not be normally available or too cost prohibitive in many solid wood furniture. Veneer can provide a more uniform finish and be easier to match to when adding pieces to a previously decorated room.

There is a common belief that furniture made with veneer is something to avoid, and that solid wood is always better.  Veneer means a thin layer of wood glued down to other wooden boards. Cabinet makers will say that factors of thickness, workmanship and condition determine whether veneering is good or bad.

Thousands of years ago, fabulous veneer work in ebony and ivory was put into King Tut’s tomb in Egypt.  Veneer techniques in the Renaissance became very sophisticated, using tiny pieces of exotic woods and burl grain to create intricate designs or lavish scenes, called marquetry or intarsia work.  Much of the finest royal furniture for hundreds of years employed lavish veneer construction, using the finest species of wood and tiny pieces of burl or exotic grain. One of the main advantages of using veneer is “matching,” or making the right and left grain mirror images of each other.  There is also quarter matching and pie-shaped or sunburst matching for dazzling special effects in wood.

Benefits of Veneer

A layer of Veneer is a very thin panel of wood that can range from paper thin to around  5-6mm thick. A Veneer panel can be applied to anything from chip board, MDF (Medium Density Fiber Board) or even solid wood. Most people perceive solid wood furniture as a higher quality product than a product using veneered panels. However, some of the most expensive and high quality furniture that you can purchase can sometimes be made from MDF with a veneer placed over the top of it, and some of the cheapest furniture you can purchase can be constructed using solid wood.

Danish furniture makers - SKETCH Interiors utilizes a new technology that has a simple, honest design approach in their veneer. This technology is a “two-way” veneer one piece crosses over the other in the opposite direction. In addition, they also design dining tables with a solid timber edge that surrounds the table top. This hybrid method of construction is more labor-intensive but mitigates one of the major downsides to solid timber – warping and cracking. 

Overall, this construction method gives more strength and will help resist warping and moisture absorption and is a highly cost effective alternative to solid wood. 

Last but not least, let us talk about the environment. Because veneer only takes a thin layer of a quality hardwood tree that takes decades (or even centuries) to mature, it reduces the harvest of both common and exotic timbers. It extends the use of a piece of wood with minimal amount of waste with practically no saw dust. It only takes one to produce many.

As Oscar Wilde said,
 “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”  The history of veneer on furniture is a long and honorable tradition, and the answer depends on workmanship, technique, underlying structure and thickness of the veneer itself.

 Written by Lisa Clark

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