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Wood is wood is wood....right? | Paul Downs Cabinetmakers

Wood is wood is wood….right?

Wood is wood is wood…right? Well, not exactly. After felling a tree, logs are processed into chunks of solid lumber or sliced into thin sheets of veneer. Some parts of the log are unsuitable for either lumber or veneer – these are made into engineered boards, which we use for the internal structure of the table.

Each type of wood is best used for a particular task:

Many people do not know what veneers are. Both solids and veneers are wood – they are just cut from the tree in different ways. Think of solids as being like a steak and veneers as something like prosciutto – same stuff, just cut much thinner. Veneers are sliced off of a log using an enormous knife. We use them for 3 reasons:

  1. The most spectacular trees get cut into veneers, so if we want the coolest wood we have to use them.
  2. You can get a lot of veneer off of a single tree, so when we want to cover a large area in a consistent way, veneers are the way to go.
  3. Large veneered panels are much more stable than large solid panels which are prone to warp and crack.

Solid Wood
We use solids in places where we need to cut a complex shape, carve a molding, and wherever a piece is likely to be banged during its ordinary use. For conference tables, that means the edge of the table and parts of the base.

Engineered Panels
Wood has some inconvenient properties, particularly its tendency to change dimension when the weather changes and its variable structure. (Each tree’s grain responds to its local environment, so there are wide variations in appearance and strength in any pile of lumber. Not to mention knots.) Engineered panels have been developed to help wood do a better job in certain situations. We use two types:

  1. Plywood, which consists of panels made from interlocking layers of veneers
  2. Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) 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. Our table tops are made with a layer of veneered MDF on top of a plywood structural base, which receives the hardware that holds the table together.


If you haven’t already, please look through our gallery of custom conference tables. You can choose any of these designs as a starting point for your project, or you can submit your own designs. For help designing your custom conference project, contact us today at 610-239-0142 or