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When to veneer vs use solid wood?

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Forum topic by agallant posted 06-05-2017 03:40 PM 468 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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agallant

551 posts in 2723 days


06-05-2017 03:40 PM

Hello Everyone,

I have been wanting to do several furniture projects and am about to finally have the time to start them. One thing that I want to create is an updated version of a record hutch that my grandmother had which now resides with my parents. When looking at the hutch closely I can see that it is not solid wood but rather a plywood core veneered with walnut. I want to use solid Walnut with a plywood back and bottom but am afraid of issues arising from the expansion and contraction of the wood.

This got me thinking on when to use veneer vs solid wood for furniture. Are there some general guidelines on when one is better than the other? I know if you are going to do something like wrap a table top you should use a plywood core with veneer but besides that, I don’t know what the other use cases would be outside of reducing material use on wood with really interesting grain.

So what are the general thoughts on this?


11 replies so far

View jmartel's profile

jmartel

7527 posts in 1987 days


#1 posted 06-05-2017 03:44 PM

Depends on the look you are going for plus the cost of solid wood vs veneer plus substrate. You could absolutely do that piece in solid wood, but veneer was used most likely to control costs.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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agallant

551 posts in 2723 days


#2 posted 06-05-2017 03:49 PM



Depends on the look you are going for plus the cost of solid wood vs veneer plus substrate. You could absolutely do that piece in solid wood, but veneer was used most likely to control costs.

- jmartel

I’m not really worried about costs. I would prefer solid wood. One concern I have on that is does it all have to be solid wood or can I use plywood for the back and bottom where no one will see it?

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jmartel

7527 posts in 1987 days


#3 posted 06-05-2017 03:51 PM

You can use plywood for the back and bottom. Just make sure to allow for expansion/contraction on anywhere where solid wood meets non-solid wood. I would be inclined to make the bottom solid as well so that you can have the whole piece move together. Plywood back shouldn’t have issues with movement with the grain direction as in your example photo. Expansion/contraction would be forwards/back direction.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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agallant

551 posts in 2723 days


#4 posted 06-05-2017 03:53 PM



You can use plywood for the back and bottom. Just make sure to allow for expansion/contraction on anywhere where solid wood meets non-solid wood.

- jmartel

How would you do that? Use fasteners instead of glue?

View HerbC's profile

HerbC

1686 posts in 2696 days


#5 posted 06-05-2017 03:54 PM

You should have no problem using plywood for back and bottom and solid wood for all the visible portions of the cabinet.

Be sure to use good quality plywood. Using cheap plywood can lead to problems warping.

Be Careful!

Good Luck!

Herb

-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!" http://lumberjocks.com/HerbC/blog/17090

View Rich's profile

Rich

1980 posts in 426 days


#6 posted 06-05-2017 06:35 PM

You could also use walnut veneer plywood. If you handle the edges properly (too many options to list here), it will look just as good as solid walnut. It’s not cheap, but will be a bit less money than solid wood, without many of the headaches that come with it like sapwood, warping, etc.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

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JAAune

1769 posts in 2153 days


#7 posted 06-06-2017 03:48 AM

Typically, it costs as much to buy veneer and substrate as it does to use solid wood unless you’re using expensive wood like ebony (or possibly walnut depending upon grade). Most veneers will cost more than $1 per square foot and you need two pieces plus glue and substrate to get a square foot panel. Oak and other common domestics don’t cost that much more than $3/bf to purchase so the price is similar.

The best thing to do is to forget about what material to use and focus entirely upon the design of the piece. Once that’s complete, then go over everything and determine the following for each component.

1. Is expansion/contraction an issue?
2. Will there be decorative grain patterns like book-matching or marquetry?
3. Is it important to get perfectly consistent grain and color everywhere?
4. Is the wood cost-prohibitive to buy as solid stock?

Usually modern styles of furniture require the use of veneers because of the need for large, flat surfaces that ignore the reality of wood expansion and contraction.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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jmartel

7527 posts in 1987 days


#8 posted 06-06-2017 04:15 AM


How would you do that? Use fasteners instead of glue?

- agallant

Fasteners that have larger/elongated holes, dados, tongue and groove, etc. There’s a bunch of ways to account for it.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View papadan's profile

papadan

3584 posts in 3205 days


#9 posted 06-06-2017 04:23 AM

I never build with anything but solid hardwoods. Finish the inside like the outside and don’t worry about movement.

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

747 posts in 332 days


#10 posted 06-06-2017 04:24 AM

That piece has a very Danish Modern/Mid-Century Modern feel. If it were me, I’d be inclined to stay true to the original and make it out of cabinet grade plywood. You would need to seek out a good plywood distributor, you will not get good cabinet grade plywood from the box stores. Using sheet goods will also allow you to grain match the entire front (drawers and doors) which is typical with this style. Just be careful sanding it, the veneer on the last batch of walnut plywood I got was only about 3 atoms thick.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

3652 posts in 2146 days


#11 posted 06-06-2017 05:02 AM

I think it would look better like this.

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-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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