Heirloom furniture with plywood?

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Let me say upfront. I don't know what makes a piece of furniture valuable or an "heirloom." But I bought this months edition of Woodsmith and in it is a plan for a chest of drawers with the casing made of plywood. There were other items with plywood also.
Doesn't "real" fancy furniture that becomes and anitque or and heirloom have a solid wood base and case? Doesn't plywood make it "cheap." Sorry if this offends some of you. I really just am curious if solid wood could be used as a substitute for the plywood an give it real lasting value. But I am sure that would make it cost much more to build. How much I don't know.
Thanks for commenting.
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Sat, Aug 30, 2003, 10:24pm (EDT+4) john_20_28 snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (jm) who is honest enough to admit: Let me say upfront. I don't know what makes a piece of furniture valuable
Judging from by most of what I've seen listed for big bucks, it usually means finding a sucker, with money.
or an "heirloom."
This is usually misused. Here is what the dictionary says: heirloom n 1: (law) any property that is considered by law or custom as inseparable from an inheritance is inherited with that inheritance 2: something that has been in a family for generations
But I bought this months edition of Woodsmith and in it is a plan for a chest of drawers with the casing made of plywood. There were other items with plywood also. Doesn't "real" fancy furniture that becomes and anitque or and heirloom have a solid wood base and case?
As far as plywood, here is a partial quote: Bent Ply is the first book devoted to plywood in modern design. It consists of two parts: the first, an illustrated history of plywood (tracing its origins to ancient Egypt, circa 2900 BC); Quoted from here: http://www.nzia.co.nz/site/story.asp?bid=0&storyid 7
I don't figure you get much more antiquey then old Egyptian furniture, it's usually pretty fancy too. Way I figure it, if the people that made the stuff that are antiques today had plyowod, they would have used it, same as electricity and power tools, instead of hand tools.
Doesn't plywood make it "cheap.
Not judging by what some people charge. And, price some antique Egyptian furniture.
" Sorry if this offends some of you.
Maybe some of the too tight people, but who cares about them? Not me, I like plywood. They made bombers and PT boats from it in WWII, and you can make anything from a yacht to fine furniture with it. Great stuff.
I really just am curious if solid wood could be used as a substitute for the plywood an give it real lasting value.
It would have snob appeal anyway, but yes, some times solid wood could be sutstituted, other times plywood would be more appropriate. Depends.
But I am sure that would make it cost much more to build. How much I don't know.
If it's cost that stops you, then use more inexpensive materials, or make smaller projects. Find something that sells, make enough money to buy more materials, more expensive materials, and go from there. Anyway, it's a Hell of a lot cheaper to make somehing you have never made, and make some mistakes, out of poplar, or some other relatively inexpensive wood, then to try the same thing out of expensive wood, and then screw it up.
JOAT No sense in being pessimistic - it wouldn't work anyway.
Life just ain't life without good music. - JOAT Web Page Update 30 Aug 2003. Some tunes I like. http://community-2.webtv.net/Jakofalltrades/SOMETUNESILIKE /
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For entertainment centers, I use plywood for the carcase. And, I guess a well built piece of furniture made with plywood could be passed on to future generations and be considered of high quality, but it doesn't quite have the look and feel of solid wood. Personally, for furniture, if it is for myself, or the person who commissioned it is willing to pay extra, it is always solid wood.
Preston

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The advantage of plywood lies in ease of design and construction, not necessarily price. For example, I can get solid 4/4 walnut cheaper than 3/4 walnut plywood. But then I have to design for wood movement with solid wood. Good plywood furniture can be more durable than poorly designed solid wood furniture. But I do use solid wood for really fine furniture. However, most customers want plywood because of labor costs. Plywood goes together much faster. harrym

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Hi John
Well, if you mean to say the heirloom in the sense built as they use to build it - then yes, using a plywood is a no no. If that's not what you mean, plywood - typically veneer plywood - can be the better wood choice to make. Plywood doesn't change its dimension as much as real wood (being made up of wood in different orientations - the expansion/contractions kind of cancel out)- is more stable (since you would probably have to glue up pieces to make the sizable panels) - and per board ft, probably cost less. So, you can make a better piece of furnitue, that will probably outlive you, and become the heirloom piece in your family.
I just made a coffe table, and I choosed a glue'd up oak for the top, pretty much veeneer plywood for the rest. Even, as I made it, the top was warping a little bit, while the plywood was as flat as can be. I edged the plywood with oak strips, and I think it looks pretty good.
I didn't do any of that fancy "floating" joinery where you let the wood more or less float on top of the rest of the table - using "break board" edges and oblong screwholes to let the wood expand. I'm half expecting to see that top - pop off one of these days as its only dadoe and glued to the rest of the table. So, well see how good the "real wood" does.
At my level of comfort and expertise, I stick with solid wood for the small parts or "show" part and plywood for the rest.
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Ever seen an antique, museum piece with veneered sides and top? The basic principles are virtually identical with using ply's of wood (plywood) to gain dimensional stability on certain parts or assemblies, particularly when adding inlay patterns.
IMO, quality plywood, properly cut and correctly used, in no way cheapens a piece any more than "veneer" does.
I just finished a walnut coffee table for a customer. The top, eight sided, has a 1/4" strip of cherry between the 1/2" thick walnut edge and the walnut plywood top. It would have been very difficult to make this work without the dimensional stability of a plywood or veneered top. A solid wood top would just about guarantee gaps in the "inlay" at the joints within the first year.
There is undoubtedly much value in the material, but a "solid wood" piece that falls apart in 10 years will have no value, regardless of the material.
BTW, be careful what you call "solid wood" ... most furniture stores class plywood as "solid wood" these days, just as they would veneer.
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when
a
sided,
walnut
the
material.
This is a good point. If it isn't there, what good is it?

I guess when I picture plywood I see some nasty stuff from Home Depot next to the two by fours. Is the plywood used in furniture different from "that" stack? (I know there are several stacks, but I hope you understand what I mean.)
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[...]

This is not exaxctly a new technique, it dates back at least as far as the middle of last century, in german it's called "Schlfurnier".
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Juergen Hannappel wrote:

I didn't know that. The boss was going on and on about it like it was something that just got invented 10 years ago.
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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On Sun, 31 Aug 2003 12:22:36 -0400, Silvan

In English, it's called "rotary cut" veneer (like unrolling toilet paper). Most construction plywood veneers are cut that way, as well as most red oak plywood and some other woods. Many good quality hardwood veneers (not all) are also sliced using a knife, but a using half-round, quarter, rift or flat slicing. I don't think saw-cut veneers are commercially available any longer. The following page shows the different methods of slicing veneer and will test your Linux ingenuity as it uses Quicktime. :-)
http://www.commonwealthplywood.com/en/veneer/index.shtml #
You might go here also, which has static pictures.
http://www.tapeease.com/typesof.htm
or
http://www.forestplywood.com/veneer.htm
Luigi Replace "no" with "yk" twice in reply address for real email address
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Luigi Zanasi wrote:

Feh, you mean click the links and watch the movies? Got that covered. :)
Guess I'll go waste a bit of time learning about veneer...
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next
nice
scrub
Here's a really newbie questin. What is veneer?
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veneer
noun (plural veneers)
1. industry thin layer as surface: a thin layer of a material fixed to the surface of another material that is of inferior quality or less attractive
2. industry layer of plywood: any of the layers of wood that are glued together to make plywood
3. industry building outer layer: an outer layer fixed to something for decoration or protection, for example, a facing of stone on a brick building
4. deceptive appearance: an outward appearance that is meant to please or impress others but that is false or only superficial
as per msn.encarta.com
Jack
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Re: Heirloom furniture with plywood? Sun, Aug 31, 2003, 4:46pm (EDT+4) john_20_28 snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (jm) asks: Here's a really newbie questin. What is veneer?
Here's a really oldie way to find out. http://www.google.com /
JOAT No sense in being pessimistic - it wouldn't work anyway.
Life just ain't life without good music. - JOAT Web Page Update 30 Aug 2003. Some tunes I like. http://community-2.webtv.net/Jakofalltrades/SOMETUNESILIKE /
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jm wrote:

I just confirmed that the definition of "antique" means something at least 100 years old. I don't have any "antiques" but I have a lot of heirloom furniture passed down from various relatives, some still living, some not.
My bedroom furniture is some pretty garish stuff, and I have no idea whether it was considered "fancy" or "cheap" in its day, but I can imagine that furniture like this would be exhorbitantly expensive today. Dovetails, wooden drawer glides, and similar details are typical.
The headboard, night stands, dresser and chifferobe are all feature a curved front panel that's made out of kerfed, veneered plywood. All the pieces are veneered with primarily mahogany (I'm guessing), with bits and pieces of other colorful woods inlaid in intricate but ugly patterns. Under this layer, there's another band of fake black and yellow burlish looking stuff that is a *decal*. If you look closely, you can see the dots of ink. The pulls are all brass plated pot metal with amber plastic inserts, and the mirror had bands of inlaid amber colored mirrors that had fallen out.
I know how the curves are made because the veneer was peeling off the footboard rather horribly. I removed it and tried to glue some red oak veneer onto it (because red oak was available) and boy did that turn out horrible. One of these days I have to figure out how to match the mahogany or whatever, figure out how to get all that stupid contact cement off of the thing, and re-do it right. Or else accidentally throw it all away.
I have no idea exactly how old it is, who made it, how expensive it was, or where it was purchased. It belonged to my great aunt. By the look of the stuff, I would guess it was made during one of America's most tasteless periods, though it might have been manufactured during a time when people were making cheap imitations of furniture from that period out of nostalgia, much as hideous hip huggers are being worn by kids today. (I have yet to see a female posterior that's the slightest bit attractive when clad in those damnable things.)
Anyway, call it '50s at the young end, and maybe '20s at the old end. It's a lot older than I am either way, and while it is well put-together, it's definitely made from non-solid materials. There's nothing solid about the stuff.
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Cabinet grade plywood, like construction grade plywood, comes in many types. The quality of the face veneers are graded from 1A to 4D. (or it's A1 to D4. I can never remember that.) The oak plywood I recently saw in HD was a 3C grade. If you want truly nice plywood, you need to go to either a real lumberyard or a cabinet makers supply shop. The cabinet supply shop will usually have the best selection and prices.
As others have said, there are plenty of heirlooms and fine antique pieces that have plywood. Often the furniture makers would make their own.
When I bought my house, the previous owners left a very nice highboy dresser in the garage, where it had been for 13 years. This dresser, which was probably made in the 1940's or 50's, has cabriole legs, a shell carving, and curved molding and finials at the top. It's made from solid mahogany and mahogany veneer plywood. I couldn't use it inside the house, so for 9 years I used it to hold tools. I recently gave it to a friend who paid to have it proffesionally restored. His daughter already has her eye on it. While it is not technically an antique today, it will probably be one in her lifetime.
David
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I used to think heirloom meant solid wood only, and that's how I build 'furniture' (i.e., shop cabinets are plywood all the way). We may equate heirloom to solid wood because that's what's available. A hundred or two years from now, heirloom may equal plywood if everything else is made from MDF.
However, I got a chest of drawers that was made in my great-grandfather's lumber mill, I'd guess 1930s (my dad didn't know) and it has plywood back and drawer bottoms. I consider it an heirloom piece because of the family history.
So maybe if you plan to hand it down to your descendants, looks will matter over materials. If you want it to sell for high $ in the antiques market ;0) it'll have to be solid wood to be heirloom.
Either way you won't be around to know what folks think of your handiwork, so build what you think is best.
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Heck man if you had a piece of paper towel that was your great great great great grandfathers, wouldnt it be priceless to you and your family? That's what makes it valuable. What if George washington made a dresser out of plywood. Heck yeah it'd be valuable.
Sam

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Sam Hopkins responds:

More so since today's concept of plywood didn't exist then. Pre-configured?

Take a look at veneers and inlays. Then talk about cheap.
Charlie Self
"Men willingly believe what they wish." Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico
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On 09 Sep 2003 23:40:54 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) wrote:

George didn't shop at Ikea? <G>
Barry
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