Friday, November 13, 2009

What’s the difference between solid wood, real wood veneer and manufactured woods?

Real wood, all wood, simulated wood, you’ve heard it all, but what does it mean? What is the difference between them, and do you really want them in your furniture? We’ll look at three properties that show the differences. First let’s look at the definitions.

Solid wood – This is wood straight from the tree. Cut into boards, planed smooth and turned into furniture.

Plywood veneer – This is made by alternating thin sheets of wood at 90 degrees. Furniture quality wood veneer has few or no voids in the inner sheets and the outer sheets can be faced with any species of wood.

Manufactured woods – This is manufactured from wood chips or wood dust, combined with adhesives then pressed together into sheets.

So now that we’ve identified the materials, let’s look at how they differ.

Wood movement
· Plywood and manufactured woods are both very stable. While they do change in size it is very minimal due to the cross grain / adhesive construction.
· Solid wood is the most prone to seasonal movement. It varies between species but it is manageable.

Ability to hold fasteners
· The grain structure of solid wood allows the fasteners to bite and hold well.
· Plywood holds fasteners well across its face, but not on edge. The layers of wood don’t provide the continuous grain for the fasteners to grab.
· Due to the absence of grain in manufactured wood it has poor holding power both on the face and its edge.

· Due to the alternating grain in plywood it is very strong and is less likely to deflect.
· Solid wood also tends to be strong, but will bend more than veneer.
· Manufactured wood has minimal strength. It is very likely to bend or break when put under loads, like a shelf full of books.

Now that you know more about these materials, you can see why quality furniture is made with solid wood and veneers, but not with manufactured woods