Wood comes in three types: solids, veneers, and engineered panels. All of these come from a tree and each type is best used for a particular task. After felling, logs are processed into chunks of solid lumber or sliced into thin sheets of veneer. The parts of the log that are unsuitable for either lumber or veneers are made into engineered boards and processed into panels of consistent size and thickness. If solid lumber is like a steak, then veneers are like prosciutto – same stuff, just cut much thinner. Engineered panels are like the hot dog of the wood world.
Solid wood is classic, beautiful, and durable. Often used and well-loved for these reasons and more. However, when making large tables some of it’s more inconvenient properties come into play. Humid weather makes the lumber expand, while dry weather makes it shrink. This can cause warping and cracking, thus limiting the size of panel that can be made entirely out of solid lumber. Solid wood also has variable appearance and structure because each tree’s grain responds to its local environment, which can be an impediment to uniformity.
The most spectacular trees get cut into veneers, so if we want the coolest wood we have to use them. Additionally, since you can get a lot of veneer off of a single tree we’re able to cover a large area in a consistent way – an impossibility with solid wood.
Like many materials that get an undeserved bad rap, the method in which veneers are made and used can make all the difference. We aren’t interested in making cheap furniture, so our veneered work is done with the techniques that stand the test of time. No need to worry about peeling or blistering veneers in our work; we apply a solid wood edge to all of our tabletops to prevent damage. Think of veneer as you would bacon: your breakfast may be delicious or disgusting, but you don’t blame the pig. It’s up to the chef to use the ingredients properly. Same with veneers. Built properly, veneer furniture is as durable as solid.
Engineered panels have been developed to help wood do a better job in certain situations. As you can imagine, they’re inexpensive and the best solution when low cost is an advantage. We use two types of engineered panels: 1) Plywood, made from interlocking layers of veneers, and 2) MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) which is made from leftover parts of the tree. Plywood is good for structural elements, particularly in the table base, and MDF is an excellent substrate for veneers.