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Solid Hardwood Furniture
by Terry Canup

Running a business which relied heavily on its cabinet making factory (and actually building cabinets myself) taught me a number of things about furniture construction. Principal among these is that the word "solid", when used in common terms in furniture, does not actually mean one piece blocks of hardwood.

Furniture manufacturers are not trying to deceive you in this regard. They have simply loosened the definition. Huge blocks of wood are rare. Except when producing smaller furniture pieces, like dining chairs, it is impossible to fulfill the exact original definition. Therefor they use techniques like butcher blocking the wood, or grain matching ("stitching") planks of wood. Additional techniques are also used. One of these is putting a top layer of solid (or 'stitched') wood in a veneer over a wood base.

Grain splicing and butcher block example pfbb
                  Furniture Forum
Grain Matching and Butcher Block technique

Previously, we discussed the types of woods used in furniture manufacturing. Wood by its nature has a grain. Grains are susceptible to splitting along their length. The last thing you want is your furniture to split apart. To solve this structural problem, craftsmen developed the technique of placing thinner layers (or plys) of wood in 90 degree rotations to form the base over which the cosmetic veneers are laid. This is sometimes referred to as "cabinet grade". This cabinet grade plywood is the structural base for the majority of the hardwood solid wood furniture produced today.

PFBB Furniture Forum solid wood
Solid Rotated Grain Plywood Technique

Unlike hardwoods, softwoods, like pines and cedars, which are plentiful and fast growing, are more frequently produced in large piece construction without veneering. Much of this construction is done for the "Rustic" furniture market. Veneering is an art form, when done by hand. Recently it has been perfected in machine production. There are many types of veneers and many types of bases over which they are applied. These other types do not qualify as solid wood construction.


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