Antique Furniture Veneer

By John Tope

Veneer is a paper thin layer of wood that has been glued to a wooden substrate for purposes of either, look, saving cost, structural integrity or design.  In the 1600’s and early 1700’s virtually all furniture was made of solid wood.  In rare instances, veneer was used to decorate furniture such as with an inlay.  Later in the 1700’s veneers were used more widely for entire surfaces of furniture.  The use of veneers is thousands of years old.  So the idea that an item is not old because it is veneered is not correct.  

Thickness of the veneer can indicate age.  Before machinery, veneers were hand cut with saws.  Therefore it was very difficult to cut a thin veneer compared to what machine could cut in later years.  A thicker veneer indicates an older piece.  They also tended to be more irregular as compared to today’s paper thin veneers.  Veneer became thinner in the mid 1800’s when a machine saw could cut it thinner.  On modern tables, the thickness of the veneer can vary from a 28th to a 64th of an inch thick.