Wood veneer sheets often have a bad reputation when used in furniture construction. Common complaints of wood veneer sheets include that they are of poor quality, cheap and ugly. Unfortunately, while there are certainly poor quality wood veneer pieces of furniture available, these stereotypes do not apply to wood veneer furniture in general. In fact, there are many fine pieces of veneer furniture which are just as exquisite and high quality as any piece of furniture constructed from solid wood.
Part of the confusion about veneer furniture may come from the fact that many people misunderstand it. Wood veneer is a thin slice of wood that is cut or peeled off of a log. The thicknesses of sheets of veneer vary. Generally, thin wood veneer is of lower quality than thicker wood veneer. Once veneers are cut, they are applied to another wood surface. Usually, the outer layer of wood is made from beautiful looking or exotic woods. The inner layer can be made from more functional woods or particle board. Veneers can be applied a number of ways. There are iron on wood veneer sheets, self adhesive veneer sheets and pressure sensitive veneer sheets, just to name a few varieties.
Using veneer in furniture construction offers several advantages over solid wood construction. This is because solid wood has a tendency to bow or warp over time. It is also more sensitive to changes in heat and humidity. At worst, these fluctuations can produce splits in solid wood along the grain called “season cracks.” Solid wood is also not as easily bent. This means veneers are better at achieving interesting shapes. Other disadvantages of solid wood include its cost and weight.
That is not to say that solid wood is always bad. In fact, it is necessary for creating supports and for framing due to its strength. This includes things like legs and seats on chairs. Rather, neither veneer nor solid wood is better than the other. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. Thus, they are often used together in the same pieces.