Solid timber or veneer

Throughout my career I have encountered numerous occasions where customers are unaware that their existing 'solid' timber furniture they had invested in, was in fact solid timber in places, and for the most part veneer.


Veneer is a thin slice of wood, which typically is thinner than 1mm. This is glued onto panels - which are normally made from medium density fibreboard (MDF), giving the impression of solid timber, but it does not offer the life span, full depth of colour, hard wearing ability, or recycling and upscaling future possibilities.


One example which stands out for me, was in the replacing of kitchen cabinetry an owner thought were solid rimu cupboards.  She thought I would be able to recycle the rimu to create a unique piece of furniture. But on inspection of the cupboards it was clear to me, that she in fact had veneer cupboards and very little solid rimu throughout the kitchen. 


Veneer does however come with some advantages. Veneer board is very stable and does not have the same shrinking and expanding characteristics of timber. This very useful trait can be used to great effect in certain areas of furniture making, for example a table top which has solid timber boarder with a veneer inlay. If only there were a way to have the best of both worlds... 


Well there is. It involves splitting timber to around 5-6 mm and laminating it onto plywood. Ply itself is solid timber, hard wearing and also has the same stability advantages of MDF. As the timber laminations are 5-6 mm in thickness, they are able to be reworked and hold the beautiful depth of colour that timber has to offer. When processed correctly a very good product is on offer here.


The use of pre fabricated veneer is common in kitchen cabinetry. It is easily sourced and turns up sanded and ready to cut, saving time and labour. In a competitive market this reflects a cheaper quote and overall final coast to the client. I just hope they know exactly what they are getting.


I am very proud of the traditional furniture making methods that I use, which means I personally avoid combining outsourced veneer in my solid timber furniture, as I strive to produce timber furniture that I know will last.