The Furniture Doctors LLC

Scottsdale Furniture Repair Specialists

Home Education Veneer is Not a Bad Word….unless it’s bad veneer! (Wood, Wood Products & Veneers – Part 2)

Veneer is Not a Bad Word….unless it’s bad veneer! (Wood, Wood Products & Veneers – Part 2)

This is Part 2 in a series of posts about wood, wood products & wood veneers

“Ugh” the customer said after I told her how beautiful the inlaid veneer was on her 1920′s sideboard that she brought in for repair.

“I didn’t realize it was veneer,” she continued, “I thought it was solid wood.”

Veneer has gotten a bad reputation over the years (and some for good reason.) Many people think of wood veneer as inferior and cheap. Some think it’s only on new furniture, and is not really wood, but a manmade product. But veneer has been around for a long time, and historically has been used on the finest furniture.

What is veneer?

Veneer is a thin layer of wood that is cut or peeled from a log, then bonded onto other surfaces to create a visually pleasing pattern. It is usually the finest grain of wood from a tree, with the most interesting grain or pattern. Veneers of exotic wood are often used as inlaid pieces on fine furniture.

On older and finer pieces of furniture, the veneer is glued onto pieces of other wooden boards. On newer and cheaper pieces of furniture, veneer is often glued (and sometimes stapled) to plywood, particle board or MDF (medium density fibre board.)

In the past, wood veneers were as thick as 1/32 inch or more, allowing the furniture to be repaired and refinished over the years. Today, some veneers are as thin as a piece of paper, making them difficult to repair if damaged.

How long has veneer been used?

Veneer has been used for centuries. Elaborate veneer work in ebony and ivory were found in King Tut’s tomb. During the Renaissance era, tiny pieces of exotic wood were used for marquetry on the finest pieces of furniture. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the finest furniture makers used exotic wood veneers to create beautiful and intricate patterns on their finer pieces. In those days, veneers were used as a piece of art and you will find many of these pieces of furniture in museums.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, furniture makers began using veneers to make the more beautiful and valuable pieces of wood go farther. Beautiful veneers of mahogany, walnut, or quarter-sawn oak were often glued to birch or regular cut oak. Much of this furniture has stood the test of time and is still being using by many households today.

Around World War II, fine wood became scarce and lesser wood veneers were used to create quality, affordable furniture. Around the 1970′s, manufacturers began using thinner veneers and adhering them to plywood, particle boards, and medium density fibre boards. The lack of good quality craftsmanship and inferior adhesives since then has resulted in veneers getting a bad reputation. That being said, there are still some fine furniture makers today who make quality furniture with thicker veneers bonded to wooden surfaces. But you have to pay the price for their superior craftsmanship.

What area of the furniture is veneer usually used on?

Veneer is often used on table tops and other horizontal surfaces. Since it has the prettiest grain, it is used on surfaces to hide inferior grain. Table and chair legs are often made of solid wood, although less expensive ones are made of particle board and covered with veneer.

How to determine if furniture is made with veneer?

Remember, not all veneer is bad. Like I stated above, some of the finest pieces of furniture are made with veneer. But here are some things to look for:

1. Check the underside of the piece. If the grain from the top surface is not the same on the underside, it is most likely not solid wood.

2. Check the edges. If there is a seam or a band where the grain does not continue over the edge, then it is most likely veneer.

3. Check the width of the surface. Since veneer is usually rolled from a tree, the width of the veneer can be much wider than a wooden plank.

4. Check for inlays. If there are inlaid pieces, it is veneer.

It is very difficult to determine the thickness of the veneer unless there is some sort of blemish or the veneer has chipped off.


This early 20th century drawer was inlaid with 2 different veneers to create a beautiful design.

Click on image to enlarge

The veneer on this newer table was beautiful, but it was so thin, it was difficult to sand when the customer wanted it refinished.

 Click on image to enlarge

This 1920′s – 1940′s table top has quarter sawn oak veneer. Notice how the edge banding has a seam and the graining is different than the graining on the top. This is an indication that it is veneer

Click on image to enlarge

This mahogany table top is made of solid wooden planks. Notice how the graining continues over the edge of the table, indicating that it is solid wood and not veneer

Click on image to enlarge

Please refer to Part 1 in this series about wood, wood products & veneers for other photos of veneer:

If you have any questions, please call The Furniture Doctors LLC at 480-219-4158.



2 Responses

  1. Nice blog design. i like this wooden type background. Thanks for sharing nice information.

  2. The Furniture Doctors LLC


You must be logged in to post a comment.