Is it hardwood or veneer?

nosoccermomJuly 22, 2012

I apologize if this is a stupid question, but I'm in the market for some used furniture, specifically a dining table and dresser, and have been looking at consignment/"antique" stores and CL. I see so many tables that are advertised as "solid wood" that I'm pretty sure are not. Mind you, I don't think that many of the people are trying to cheat the potential buyer; they really think they have a solid wood table there, or perhaps more precisely, a piece of furniture where the top is not a veneer. I bought one of them and only realized after a fair amount of rigorous sanding, that I was dealing with a thick veneer on top of a cheaper wood. http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/wood/msg021355026134.html?17 (By the way, the table turned out great until I left it out overnight in a light drizzle. Haven't succeeded in gluing down the lifted veneer :(

So, how can I tell whether a piece is indeed the solid wood that's on the surface or veneer over another wood or plywood?

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bobismyuncle

There are several "clues" that I look for

* Check the edge of the table to see if the grain lines run off the top and over the edge. If the grain runs a different direction than the grain on the top, it's a veneer (or edge-banded, but extremely unlikely). Another very good place to check for this is the edge in an extension table where the leaf goes.

* Look for a uniform, repeating grain pattern. If one plank looks like the one next to it, and that one looks like the one next to it, then it's veneer that's been bookmatched or slip-matched.

* If the grain runs in different directions such as pie pieces cut on radius around a curved end, it's veneer. Also, if there is edge-banding and/or stringing, it's veneer.

* Check underneath and see if it fails either of these tests, meaning it's veneer:
- The back side is a different species of wood
- The back side seams do not exactly align with the top side seams.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 7:30PM
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nosoccermom

For example, tables like the one below. Is it a solid planked top or veneer?
http://www.broyhillfurniture.com/Furniture/Dining-Room-Furniture/Bryson/i103578-Broyhill-Bryson-Leg-Table.aspx

Here is a link that might be useful: Broyhill

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 11:35AM
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lindac

It says solid oak....so it had better not be veneered.

And remember a piece may be solid wood....but still be veneered. Solid wood simply means no particle board.
The words to look for are "solid oak...or solid walnut...or solid cherry".
Also remember that veneer was used so that very beautiful grains of wood could be used in table tops and drawer fronts....not to save money....because when fine furniture woods were cheap and plentiful, it was more expensive to veneer a table top.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 11:15AM
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freethinker99

I agree you can find many high quality veneered tables but I prefer a solid wood table. In the long run a well built solid wood table is more repairable and less trouble.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 6:47AM
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nosoccermom

That's my take. I need a solid table, so that the inevitable scratches, nicks, etc. will become part of the patina, and if all else fails that I can sand and refinish. Think rustic. Yet, I still have a hard time identifying veneer, especially if inexpensive woods are being simulated. For example, the table below. It says solid pine, but hen in the description it says solid wood and wood veneer, so what is it?

Here is a link that might be useful: pine table

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 8:05AM
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lindac

That ridged top is laid on....put your mouse over the corner of the table....you can see it.
Why would you want a table with grooves to catch crumbs and yuck to use for food??
Check household auctions and estate sales.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 11:47AM
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nosoccermom

How can I assess whether this table is really solid wood and not veneer?

Here is a link that might be useful: CL table

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 6:02PM
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Fori is not pleased

The top looked veneered--that's how you get the pretty pattern where the grains meet at an angle. It's not a bad thing!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 10:04PM
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nosoccermom

Thank you for pointing this out. I still have a lot to learn...

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 9:43AM
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lindac

If you need someone else to agree that the CL table is veneer....here's my vote!!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 9:54PM
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nosoccermom

So, whenever you have this kind of pattern, it's veneer, or are there tables where it isn't?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 3:13PM
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Fori is not pleased

It's possible maybe but I don't think it's all that likely.

And think of how big a chunk of tree they'd have to use if each quarter of that table was from a single piece of wood.

Basically, fancy tables with patterns in the grain or different decorative edges or large spaces between seams are likely to be veneered. If it looks like someone could have glued a bunch of smaller boards together into a big board and then cut out a table, it's solid. But if there aren't many seams in the grain and it would have had to have come from a giant sequoia tree, odds are good that it's veneered.

For solid wood, oak is usually a good bet.

Veneered tables are technically still (usually, especially with older CL stuff) solid wood...just not the same wood all the way thorough. :)

You should give veneer another try. Just sand gently and keep it out of the rain.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 7:37PM
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nosoccermom

Yes, keeping it out of the rain is definitely good advice :)
However, how durable is veneer for daily use with a bunch of sloppy family members?
Also, how big a deal is it to rip off the veneer and uncover the "cheap" wood underneath?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 7:38AM
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Fori is not pleased

Sloppy family members? I have those. Veneer isn't bad. But to kid proof (and make it cleanable), a nice thick coat (well, several light coats) of a bartop polyurethane--while making it a touch plasticy looking--will make it almost invincible!

I wouldn't do that to anything valuable, but sometimes that's what it takes to make furniture family-friendly.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 2:41PM
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lindac

Under no circumstances would you want what is likely under the veneer. I have seen several tables where that was done...it's ugly.
Your best bet will be an antique table....like the one linked below. Solid as a rock.....

Here is a link that might be useful: solid oak

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:06AM
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