Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Wood veneer furniture

  1. Dec 12, 2011 #1

    Monique

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I'm looking for some new good-quality furniture for my new apartment that can last me many years. I already bought a large solid walnut-wooden diner table, first priority :biggrin:

    I came across a beautiful dresser that was walnut veneer. My impression was that wood veneer furniture would be cheaper than solid wooden furniture, but the price of the dresser was very expensive: 5000 EUR (6600 USD).

    According to the salesman it is much better to buy veneer. The dresser was actually on sale for 3000 EUR, I could take it with me for 2000 EUR, but for me veneer wasn't worth that amount of money.

    So I'm wondering what's the truth about wood veneer, is it worth spending a lot of money on? One benefit that veneer has is that it doesn't "work", it doesn't bend out of shape like solid wood might.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2011 #2

    phinds

    User Avatar
    Gold Member
    2016 Award

    Veneer is used for two reasons. First, as you mentioned, manufactured wood products under veneer don't "move" much, nor do some cheap woods that are used for the same reason. Second, cost.

    Veneered pieces are not automatically "cheap" in the sense of being low quality, but a master craftsman would never make fine furniture out of anything but solid wood. There are construction techniques that help with the movement problem.

    Veneer will almost inevitably peel at an edge somewhere or get dinged off and show what's underneath. Also, to anyone who knows anything about wood, veneered furniture is obvious at a glance because the edges show clearly that it is not solid wood (there ARE construction techniques that can help avoid this but they are not much used by commercial manufacturers), so to some of us wood snobs, a veneered piece just screams "cheap" even though intellectually we know that's not really quite true (just mostly true).
     
  4. Dec 12, 2011 #3

    lisab

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I agree with what phinds said. Veneer pieces can be nice, but I'd think long and hard before spending a lot of money on one.

    What is the core made out of?
     
  5. Dec 12, 2011 #4

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Master craftsmen have been putting veneer on top of "solid wood" for hundreds if not thousands of years, for the sake of appearance and decoration. Wood with a decorative grain that can take a high polish (e.g walnut) may have very poor qualities for structural use.

    Of course putting cheap wood veneer (or even plastic imitation veneer) over a manufactured core material like MDF is a different matter.
     
  6. Dec 12, 2011 #5

    PAllen

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The key difference is what is under the veneer. If it is structurally sound wood of a different type, or quality plywood, and is used especially for large flat (esp. vertical) sections, you can have piece that will outlast solid wood under difficult conditions. If it is manufactured or pressed wood of any type it is crap.

    However, as for price, I would always expect to pay less than for a comparably constructed solid peice.
     
  7. Dec 12, 2011 #6

    phinds

    User Avatar
    Gold Member
    2016 Award

    You are correct. I mispoke (you already knew that, didn't you)
     
  8. Dec 12, 2011 #7

    Monique

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That's exactly what I'm afraid of. I have a cherry coffee table that I thought was solid when I bought it, but now the edges are worn down and showing the layer underneath.

    Not sure actually, when I asked the salesmen the only thing he said is that it's really hard and that you can smack it with a hammer and not have a dent.

    I think I'll shop around some more, maybe they'll come down the price some more with the end of the year approaching.
     
  9. Dec 12, 2011 #8

    PAllen

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Unfortunately, as the owner of many really solid cherry pieces, I can attest that dings on solid wood don't look much better. The only difference is that they they are reparable if I want to get into carpentry, or pay a skilled craftsmen to do it.

    I do have a couple of pieces where the vertical flat sides are veneer over plywood. Thing is, you never get nicks here. On this type of piece, the nicks all end up on the solid parts (which, in principle, is a good thing). [In fact, the most nicks are in the legs - which are solid - from the vacuum cleaner. Next most, is on top, which is always solid on this type of piece].
     
  10. Dec 12, 2011 #9

    Monique

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Is your furniture oiled? I haven't researched yet what kind of oil I can use to take care of the nut table, according to the salesman any kind of regular plant oil would be good. Such as sunflower seed or olive oil, although the olive oil would be relatively expensive and smelly :smile:
     
  11. Dec 12, 2011 #10

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I use lemon oil, Monique. It is very light and has a fresh scent. Real lemon oil is also VERY expensive, though. In the US, we have all kinds of scammers passing off lemon-scented mineral oils as "lemon oil", so it's best to stick with a trusted supplier and pay the premium.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2011
  12. Dec 12, 2011 #11

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    BTW, some of the most beautiful (and valuable) antique furniture that I have handled were veneered, at least for the trim and decorative accents. It was very common in New England for cabinet-makers a hundred or two years ago to have access to solid mahogany. Still, they inlaid that wood with veneers of ebony, holly, figured maple, etc. When you have a 200 year-old veneered piece that still looks great, you have a quality piece of furniture. Look up Hepplewhite for examples.
     
  13. Dec 12, 2011 #12

    Ben Niehoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Sounds like your salesman is just pressuring you, Monique. If he won't tell you what it's made of, certainly don't buy it.
     
  14. Dec 12, 2011 #13

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    There's a world of difference between an exotic veneer such as burl, bird's eye, or some not-quite furniture grade but incredibly beautiful wood laid on top of a furniture grade hardwood versus a cheep veneer of furniture grade hardwood laid on top of construction grade particle board. That exotic veneer, if well-made, can last for centuries. That's not the case for that cheep veneer.
     
  15. Dec 12, 2011 #14

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    True. Veneer on particle board should be avoided unless it is dirt cheap and you have an immediate need for "disposable" furniture. Veneer on a substrate of a stable marine-grade birch veneer can last at least as well as veneer over solid hardwood.

    Wood shrinks and swells, so solid wood furniture can give you some problems, too, especially if your house suffers from extremes in humidity. I don't know how many modern furniture manufactures dry and cure their woods properly. Bob Taylor (Taylor guitars) treats his woods properly, but he's got to. Guitars are made of thin woods and are sensitive to changes in humidity.
     
  16. Dec 12, 2011 #15
    IMO solid wood always ages better than anything veneered. I have a venerable old chest of drawers I got at the swap meet for $10.00 which is the envy of my friends. It's been dinged up and stained considerably, but I pulled it together, visually, with a "French Polish", which is a way of applying amber shellac. Had it been veneered, it would have splits and separations that would render it unusable. As it is, it has character.
     
  17. Dec 12, 2011 #16

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I helped a friend all day cleaning out some spare rooms in the rear of his house so that he could turn them into another apartment for extra income. He wanted to pay me, but I asked if I could just have the pine shelving that we had just removed - a full 1" thick and ~16" wide and at least 100 years old, IMO. I made a chest with a hinged lid out of that old wood, and it's probably my wife's favorite piece of furniture. It has aged gracefully over the past 30+ years. Got some dings? Yep, but they are not as ugly as one might expect. Hand-rubbed oil stain finish weathers well. 'Way better than varnish or poly.
     
  18. Dec 12, 2011 #17
    There's some treasure.

    Don't know if you saw that series about the guys who manhandle old fallen logs out of swamps and rivers and sell them. They are recovering some amazing wood.
     
  19. Dec 12, 2011 #18

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Some of that recovered wood is beautiful. The water and the minerals in the water penetrate the wood over the years, and the coloration in the grain can be amazing. Lathe it into veneers, saw it into boards, pretty wood is a joy.
     
  20. Dec 12, 2011 #19

    Chi Meson

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It's pronounced "eye - key - ah!"

    But yeah, veneer doesn't immediately mean cheap, but if I were to be spending thousands on furniture, I would tend toward solid wood. If the veneer has ornate inlays that are timeless and beautiful, then I'd make an exception.

    No, I wouldn't. I've got the room for Ikea stuff, and I've got the room for solid wood.
    Quality?
    Solid wood, man!
     
  21. Dec 12, 2011 #20

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yep. If it shipped to your house flattened down in a box and you have to put it together, chances are you are not buying decent furniture.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Wood veneer furniture
  1. Binding wood (Replies: 22)

Loading...