Solid Woods versus Veneers

I use both veneer and solid wood in my furniture. Some pieces (primarily cabinets) are veneered over their entire surface; other pieces are made entirely from solid wood; other work makes use of both materials.

Assembling solid boards to create a larger surface (on the left) creates a painterly effect. Each board is different, but a unified whole is created by carefully selecting the wood, orientation, and position of each board. Veneer (on the right) is made by repeatedly slicing the same board, creating a symmetry across the surface of a piece.

Many factors affect whether I use solid wood rather than a veneered substrate. Veneer has the advantage of being very flat (making it good for large flat expanses), as well as very stable (unlike solid wood, which expands and contracts a great deal more). Veneer can also be made to conform to unusual shapes, particularly to curved surfaces. Veneer also allows me to create repeating and symmetrical patterns that I couldn't otherwise achieve.

Solid wood has the advantage of strength, as well as interesting variations in character such as knots, figure and color variation. I typically use solid woods for the frame or structure of a cabinet, as well as for tabletops and desktops which receive a great deal of use. I also enjoy using solid wood to create complex, 3-dimensional curves in the legs or handles of a piece. Solid wood is also more durable, and easier to repair and refinish in than veneer. Conversely, solid wood is more likely than veneer to expand, contract and even warp. Construction and engineering details are critical when using solid woods.


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