What is wood Veneer?
Solid wood is so much better than veneer right? Well it is really not that simple. There are many different types of wood, grades of veneer and backing applied to veneer. I want to try and break down all of the misconceptions, myths, pros and cons about veneered furniture.
What is Veneer? Quality Veneer is a sliced sheet (about 1/42” thick) of wood taken from the entire length of a log. It is sliced, dried and glued together to make 4×8 sheets. Some veneer sheets can be much thicker also depending on their intended use and some much thinner (1/128”). The very thin veneer is used for mass produced furniture and should be avoided at all costs. The veneer may be backed with several different types of backing from no backing, paper in 10 or 20 mil thicknesses or PSA which is basically a peel and stick backing like a big sticker.
Generally speaking veneer sheets are applied to a piece of solid wood or high quality plywood. The wood or plywood is coated in very strong glue and then the veneer is placed on the glue and pressure is applied for up to 24 hours until the glue has hardened.
There are many different grades of veneer available on the market today ranging from AA, A, B, C, D & E with AA being the best grade of veneer. There are also backer grades which are meant for unseen or rarely seen parts or sides of furniture.
Veneered furniture may be a little more expensive than solid wood furniture but it is better in quality and appearance. It is cost prohibitive to use high grade lumber to build furniture and you get a much larger selection of quality cuts when using veneer.
Another reason to use veneer is because solid wood can be unstable. This is especially true when talking about some exacting woods and different burls or crotch cuts. The great thing about having quality plywood under veneer is that is much more stable than solid wood. The plywood and veneer do not move as much during seasonal changes in humidity and weather. Other advantages of veneer are that it is light and bends easily without causing stress within the wood.
Most furniture pieces that are veneered are really a combination of veneer and solid wood construction. The proper use of veneer and solid wood are the key when purchasing or making furniture. High traffic areas should not be veneered such as a chair, but low or no traffic areas such as a table top or chest should be.