Wood veneer is a process where a thin layer of wood is glued over the surface of some other kind of wood or laminate. These days, furniture or other wood products made from veneered lumber are often regarded as being of lesser quality than items made from solid wood. However, veneering is a process that dates back to ancient civilizations. when it was used by woodworkers making furniture used by kings, pharaohs and emperors. There are pros and cons to using wood veneer.
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Veneered wood has the flexibility to be produced to possess more or less strength than solid pieces of wood. Put a veneer of oak over inexpensive particleboard and you have a relatively weak sheet of material. Put the same veneer over plywood made to be used in fine furniture and it can be as strong and durable as solid oak planks. Depending on how the veneered sheets are to be used, using the extremely strong material may be overkill or the weak material inadvisable. With veneered wood you have the choice.
Veneers are often made of expensive, even exotic, woods such as mahogany, walnut and oak, covering an inner core of less pricey wood. This makes the cost of veneered lumber significantly less than what solid lumber of similar dimensions would be. The cost savings don’t end with the initial cost, however. Woodworkers often find it much easier to work, mill and join veneered wood than to work with the often hard or brittle specialty woods.
In recent decades, especially since veneer started being applied over engineered wood such as particleboard, products made of wood veneer have been perceived as being inferior to products made from solid lumber. Many of them are inferior, and inexpensive veneer furniture often looks cheap. Part of the cheapness, however, lies as much in inferior workmanship as in the material itself.
Hardwoods such as oak and maple are extremely slow growing. Exotic woods such as mahogany and teak may only grow in rainforests or in relatively few areas. Since a veneer layer may be as thin as 1/32 of an inch, one log produces a large amount of veneered wood. Making veneer instead of sawing these trees into solid lumber means far fewer trees need to be harvested to keep up with the demand for these slow-to-renew resources.