Solid or veneer? How to tell....

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11 Aug 2020
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I was recently lucky enough to be given a solid walnut table, made from 1 inch thick timber, with 6 inch square legs. I have processed it into planks for use in my projects. It got me thinking about buying unloved tables as a source of timber (hopefully cheaply). The problem is, quite a few adverts on selling sites state the tables are (say) solid oak, when they are quite clearly veneered, probably on a chipboard substrate. So, the question is, how can you identify from pictures only, whether a table top is likely to be a good piece of solid wood, or veneered chipboard? I have a few things to look out for :

1. Burr timber is almost certainly veneer as it would be insanely expensive to make a table out of solid burr.
2. If it comes from Oak furniture land, although solid oak, it is usually laminated small and badly matched pieces and won't yield any usable timber for decorative projects.
3. If there is a repeated grain pattern across the table top, then it is almost certainly book matched veneer, which although very pleasant, won't yield usable timber.
4. If the grain pattern on the edge does not match with the grain pattern on the top, it is almost certainly veneered.
5. Table tops which have 4 edgings of timeber may (or may not) have a veneered centre.
6. Patterns of squares or a 'starburst' grain pattern on the top can only be veneer.
7. If you know who the manufacturer was, you can often find out what timbers they used and whether their furniture was always solid, always veneered or a mixture.
8 Any damage to a veneered table will very likely give that fact away ( as the veneer will have lifted to show the substrate).

I accept that just because a table is veneered, it does not mean the substrate is not solid timber, but it makes it less likely.
Do you have any more tips for spotting veneered table tops (some of which I have to say look very much like solid timber on anything but a close examination).