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How to tell if it's wood veneer or solid wood

Most modern furniture manufacturers use a combination of veneer (a thin layer of wood glued onto a wooden board, which mimics the look and feel of natural wood) and solid wood. Veneering helps to make furniture lighter and cheaper, and creates new design possibilities, including cross-grain designs such as edge banding that is impossible to achieve with solid wood, says Nikki Hunt, director of Design Intervention. So how do you know your wood furniture is completely solid, fully veneered, or part-solid and part-veneered?

The Series 7 chair by Arne Jacobsen is made by pressure-moulding many layers of veneer.

We share five ways to tell:

1. Solid wood furniture is usually heavier than a veneered piece. Carved details would also mean a piece is made of solid wood.

2. You’ll be able to feel the grain if a piece is made of solid wood. Study the direction of the wood grain, too – if the grain on the side does not match up to the edge of that on the top, the piece is probably veneered.

3. Veneered furniture tends to have a uniform, “finished” appearance on all sides. Solid wood pieces have unfinished parts (stud pieces) on hidden sides, such as the underside of a table or the back of a drawer.

4. The use of edge banding is another mark of a veneered piece. It covers up the unfinished edge of the veneer.

5. Ask the salesperson if the piece you intend to buy is completely solid, fully veneered, or part-solid and part-veneered. This way, you can also get hints on how to care for it.