Solid wood: What’s in a name?

Q:

I’ve heard several manufacturers tout their products as solid wood, but they sometimes use plywood panels for the case back. Can solid wood furniture contain plywood? 
—Lynne J. Archibald, DeKalb, Ill.

A:

Since the Federal Trade Commission stopped regulating furniture labeling in 2000, Lynne, terms found on those labels (such as “all wood,” “wood products,” and “engineered wood”) make it difficult for consumers to know exactly what they’re buying.

Jaclyn Hirschhaut, spokeswoman for the American Home Furnishings Alliance helped us sort it out. She tells us that  the term “solid wood” only applies to furniture or cabinets constructed of solid wood. Add a veneered surface or engineered woods, such as plywood or MDF, and the designation changes to “solid wood with veneers” or “all wood” construction.

Despite the negative connotation it has picked up from mass-produced knockdown furniture, plywood shouldn’t be a dirty word in the furniture business or in your own projects. It is strong, stable and offers consistent color. Used properly, it can make an heirloom piece last even longer.

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