Vintage Furniture: There is such a thing as good veneers!

by Keith Lobo


History shows that craftsmen used wood veneers for centuries to decorate, protect, and preserve quality furniture. There is even evidence that veneers were used as far back as ancient Egypt to decorate the tomb of King Tut. Today, thick wood veneers can be found on a significant percentage of the quality vintage furniture that is still in use. The fact that many pieces, made between 50 and 100 years ago, are still in pristine condition may in itself be the best testament to the significance of wood veneers.

Frequently, as an integral step in the crafting of quality vintage furniture, wood strips of varying thickness were adhered to the furniture’s solid wood construction. Unlike the paper thin veneers that cover much of today’s disposable furniture, vintage wood veneers were generally made of wood strips thick enough to provide additional protection and to allow for future repair. Wood type was specifically chosen with factors including its strengths and weaknesses being key considerations in the decision making process.

Why veneers?

Furniture craftsmen chose to use veneers for various reasons.

    • To conserve and extend rare or expensive woods by gluing them to less valuable woods.
    • To create intricate designs or special effects using rare or combined pieces of wood.
    • To prevent susceptible woods from warping by gluing them to boards beneath.
  • To permit a variety of wood choices that would extend a piece’s beauty and utility.
    • To allow for unique or special design features, like the curved case of a grand piano.
    • To increase the beauty, longevity, and value of a product.

    Smart use of veneers by quality vintage craftsmen could mean more unique or detailed designs, less warping, and better future repair options. Solid wood veneers were an important component in the crafting of the timeless designs that still grace many contemporary homes today. In other words, they played an important role in the production of quality furniture pieces that could be passed from one generation to the next.

    They don’t make’em like that anymore

    New woodworking techniques allow for cutting veneers no thicker than typing paper; veneers that are impossible to repair. It’s hard to keep up appearances. Though they can look good initially, even on today’s higher end furniture, appearances can only be maintained for so long.

    While the façade of modern veneers covers furniture of diminishing worth, yesterday’s vintage veneers continue to protect furniture of character that continually grow in investment value.

    Checking out all the options can help to ensure that your furniture investment goes well beyond just keeping up appearances.

    Be sure to check out our blog post on spring cleaning your vintage furniture for eco-friendly ways to keep your solid wood and quality veneered furniture looking spectacular.


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