I was killing time before my movie started this evening by doing a little
window shopping and saw something new: fake "thinply" edgebanding on retail
In otherwords, plastic edgebanding with thinply-like banding and color was
added to retail shelving to get that industrial, avant guard look. Funny
that plywood is considered a luxury material now!
It was over a year ago when my sister-in-law started on a kitchen remodeling
that I got involved with. One of the tasks was to help come up with a
design for a small cabinet / desk / storage combination. So off we went to
a couple of the high-end furniture retailers to see what kind of ideas were
out there. We found exactly what she wanted. It looked like a drop-front
desk but was built higher so that a stool was needed instead of a chair to
sit in front of this desk.
After carefully looking it over, it had 4 solid wooden legs and one other
piece of real hardwood that was used for the edging for the drop-down
writing area. The rest was painted MDF with a couple of ceramic drawer
pulls. Admittedly, it did look good for a painted piece. I figured I could
make the whole thing in hardwood for about $100 in materials and that was a
Sister-in-law just had to know the price of this piece (they don't put price
tags on items at this store) and called over a salesperson. After a song 'n
dance about how and where this "piece" was made, the craftsmanship and the
"top-quality" materials used in its construction, she said it was available
on special order for only $1,995.....
I nearly fell over but told the nice lady that this was made from MDF - how
can it cost so much? I doubt she knew what MDF was but the reply was,
"Well, it's not so much what its made out of - as the craftsmanship that
went into making it..." Now if you think a couple of dado cuts in the MDF
sides to slide some MDF shelves into is craftsmanship....
MDF and a veneer or some other applied surface materials have taken over
tabletops and other flat areas of furniture pieces from what I've seen -
while still demanding high prices. Even Stickley furniture is using MDF in
their line of products I'm sorry to say. Like others, they say quality but
mean - cheap. Well, at least we purchased ours back when the word quality
was not watered down.
Its unfortunate that most people don't know what to look for or what to ask
when making costly purchases. If they did, I think a lot of the pro's that
hang out here would be doing much better at making "real" furniture pieces
and not trying to beat MDF prices. That boils down to educating the
consumer - and who has the resources to do that?
Besides, it's made from real wood, cheap, smooth, flat, heavy and it doesn't
expand or contract - what possibly could be a better material than termite
barf for making expensive furniture....?
We were shopping for a new mattress & while waiting in a fairly high
end, local furniture store, I looked over a lot of their pieces. A lot
of 'cherry' furniture & a close look showed that it was a good thing
such a dark, fake finish was used. The joinery wasn't what I'd expect
& a lot of the pieces in the 'all wood' cabinets were some sort of
partical board. Most were priced so high my hair curled.
I was selling some stuff at a Xmas bazaar last year & had a woman ask
me how I made my Cherry items so light colored - it wasn't a 'natural
cherry' color like the cupboard she had. I realized that she thought
the thick, dark color they paint on was natural & that my bowls which
are covered with either wax or poly weren't natural (a couple were
aged) - she thought I'd bleached them. I tried to educate her. She
didn't believe me. <shrug>
Is it just plain idiocy, larceny or simple justice to sell such people
crap? We have several custom cabinet makers around here that would
deliver a much better product than the store's garbage, probably for
the same price, although I can't swear to that. (Cherry, walnut & red
oak are plentiful & inexpensive from the local sawmills). Of course,
you have to wait a couple of months or more. People don't want to do
I think the moral of the story is that most people are idiots & like it
that way. Makes it hard on a true craftsman, though. Most people now
just want instant gratification - quality is a distant second.
Believe it or not, that's what got me into woodworking a few years back...
I would visit these furniture stores looking for a nice piece of furniture
and noticed that everything was made cheaply -- particleboard with "SOLID
wood veneer". Anything I did find that was constructed well and out of real
wood cost a fortune! So I started looking at how some of the pieces were
built and said to myself "I could build that out of something solid for far
less than they charge for the fake!" So I picked up a few power tools, and
a few years later, I have a small shop (222 sq. ft.) loaded with nice tools
and custom made benches, tables, carts, jigs, etc. Now it's my favorite
I was suprised when I once visited the very-well-known Thomasville Furniture
store. I had heard so much about how magnificent and expensive their
furniture was. So as I walked into the store, the first thing I noticed was
a coffee table with this very intricate looking hash pattern on the top...
That's when the brakes slammed on and I said "wait a second -- that's not
possible to do out of solid wood!!!" They had a pattern that looked almost
like parque (sp?) wood flooring, where some of the little planks were
perpendicular to the next set of planks (perpendicular grain). That's fine,
except that the whole top was so snug that these was no room at all for wood
expansion -- and with a top that size, it's going to expand! So I started
poking my head underneath all of their furniture and noticed that they all
had some sort of underlaying protecting the bottom of their furniture -- or
hiding the fact that it's all just particle board with a veneer top!
So what I've learned about "quality furniture" is that the quality is a
measure of how well they can hide the seams and disguise the veneer finishes
to look solid. Mass producing furniture shops have gotten VERY GOOD at
doing this. The average person can no longer tell if it's solid or just
veneered -- soon many woodworkers may not be able to tell either without
some sort of disassembly!
Whenever I ever build something for someone, I usually make sure they
understand the difference in quality first.
It's worser than you think: The current (May 2005) American Woodworker has
an article entitled "10 Things You Need to Know About Plastic Lumber".
Just the fact that they call it "lumber" is crushing. It's a sign of more
to come. We'll get "Sunny D" instead of orange juice, plastic lumber,
soilent green instead of meat and vegetables.
On Sat, 09 Apr 2005 20:21:29 -0400, J. Clarke wrote:
To add to the confusion, consider those I-beam joists made of plywood, or
termite puke. Didn't "lumber" meaning "wood" derive from "lumber" meaning
"furniture," which in days of yore was made of wood cuz they didn't have
"Soylent Green is PEOPLE!"
_Make Room, Make Room_, Harry Harrison
Actually, it was an English term. When the colonists first came here,
in their speech (according to Eric Sloane author of lots of books on
the subject) they considered 'timber' to be good wood. The word
'lumber' was derogatory, meaning 'trash wood' or something like that.
Since they were really interested in clearing land for crops & the
entire countryside was forest, they started calling most wood 'lumber'.
I think that was reinforced in the early 1800's when they turned
entire forests into charcoal to feed the iron works. They used to use
what we would consider prime wood for road beds! <sigh> They didn't
know how good they had it.
Anyway, that's Eric Sloane's explanation & it made sense of a sort.
When you consider that the US was first known to the world for
exporting White Pine & some other woods that were highly prized, it
doesn't make as much sense. When you realize that they used wood for
most everything from dishes to roads, it makes less sense. When you
think about how they razed the first growth forest though...
I suggest that one uses his/her brain and call it
what it is. It certainly isn't lumber. Plastic
lumber makes as much sense as plastic paper for
thin sheets of paper. How about plastic butcher's
paper. Manufactures and salesmen will do
whatever they want, but one doesn't have to buy
into their insanity for silly names, silly
spellings, exaggerations, and, uhh, just plain
From the fact that you have not been able to figure out "what it is" may we
conclude that you have no brain?
Or are you playing some kind of "I know but you have to guess" game like a
I'm sorry, but "plastic lumber" refers to something that is of the same
dimensions as wooden lumber and is worked by the same means but is made of
either plastic or a composite of plastic and wood pulp or sawdust or chips.
It is not called that because it is "thin".
If something is a functional substitute for rag- or pulp- based paper, made
from a synthetic polymeric material then I see no reason to call it
anything but "paper", or, if you are going to buy some and want the
polymeric kind and not the rag- or pulp-based kind calling it "plastic
paper" just as you would "rag paper" or "pulp paper".
If it is a functional substitute for butcher's paper and made from plastic,
So, again, what would _you_ call it? "Plastic lumber" seems pretty
straightforward to me. It describes the approximate form, the function,
and the material, just like "pine lumber" or "spruce lumber" or "teak
lumber" and doesn't seem silly in any fashion, nor does it seem an
exaggeration or falsification.
You are so obtuse! It is PLASTIC. Depending on
the shape it is plastic cups, plastic dishes,
plastic 1 x4, plastic planks, plastic 2x4's.
No, I wasn't playing some kind of game, I thought
the correct name would be obvious. Silly me.
You are really an inexhaustible idiot aren't
you? Plastic is not a paper, it is plastic.
Paper made from wood is commonly called PAPER. If
it contains a high content of cotton, it is called
Because it ISN'T PAPER. It is just a plastic
sheet, a plastic film.
"Plastic lumber" isn't straight forward, it is
stupid. You don't call mdf lumber because it
isn't lumber, you don't call plywood lumber,
because it isn't lumber. You can call it a
plastic plank, but that is close to stretching it.
Lumber means sawn from wood.
BTW, plastic doesn't really describe anything,
since there are all sorts of plastic material that
are quite different from one another.
It describes the approximate form, the function,
You obvious have a problem in logic. Pine,
spruce, and teak are the names of the trees the
lumber was sawn from. I have never heard of or
seen a plastic tree growing. And I am sure that
your "plastic lumber" is not sawn from plastic trees.
Here's a question. Why don't they call all that
other manmade material, even if it is made from
wood fiber, "xyz" lumber? BECAUSE IT ISN'T
LUMBER. Never saw an mdf tree, never saw a
chipboard tree, never saw an osb tree.
So what generic term would you use to encompass "plastic 1 x4, plastic
planks, plastic 2x4's" that would exclude "plastic cups, plastic dishes".
And what is it called if it contains a high content of plastic?
Huh? Plastic film is not a substitute for butcher's paper. It's a useful
wrapping material in its own right but it is not a functional equivalent.
For one thing it's not absorbent and for another writing on it is not
Generically you call them "sheet goods"--they are not lumber because they
have a different shape, not different properties.
According to who?
So now you say that it not only shouldn't be called "lumber" but also not
What you are seeing is a linguistic shift from a definition based in source
to a definition based in function.
You are correct. I have never seen a plywood or MDF 2x4 available for sale.
You keep on with your crusade. Good luck. The rest of us have more
important things to worry about than the purity of the English language.
Perhaps you would find a more receptive audience in France, but they are
unlikely to take kindly to the rantings of an anglophone concerning the
purity of their language.
On Sun, 10 Apr 2005 15:50:34 -0400, J. Clarke wrote:
It's called spun olefin and it's used in rite-in-the-rain brand notebooks.
Oceanographers use it for field notes because it's waterproof. Been around
for years. We call it "paper."
Cellulose is a polymer. Plastics are polymers. OP was barking up the wrong
"Keep your ass behind you"
vladimir a t mad scientist com
There's that, (nice stuff by the way, I inadvertently washed my field
notebook once--came through it just fine), but there's another material
I've seen that seems to be more like thin sheets of solid plastic--seems to
work as well as the spun olefin but has a distinctly different "feel".
By the way, do you have a good source that doesn't charge 50 cents a sheet?
"Lumber" by definition is wood, from trees. I'd call it "plastic boards" or
"plastic stock", "plastic", "artificial wood", or something else.
And if you intend to spend hours tuning a plane, sharpening saws and chisels
and plane irons (all the things you call "the same tools you techniques as
for lumber"), and selecting the perfect "boards" from which to make your
heirloom piece, then actually using those tools to work your plastic boards,
go right ahead..
But you'd make that same heirloom piece out of balsa or wood salvaged from
the head in a tuna boat? Sorry, but the fact that a particular product is
or is not suitable for a particular class of furniture has no bearing on
whether it is or is not lumber.
If in fact I encountered plastic boards which were perfect for the
particular piece then I would use them without hesitation. I can't see
that happening anymore than I can see finding the perfect board in the
reject pile at Home Depot, but that doesn't mean that the contents of that
reject pile are not lumber.
Plywood *is* a luxury material. It doesn't expand or contract like
solid wood panels, and it looks just as good. I'd bet the old masters
would have loved to get their hands on it. With a face frame, it's
superior in many ways to solid timbers.
Particle-board covered in con-tac paper is an entirely different
story, of course. I'd rather laminate sheets of construction paper
together than use that crap for anything I make.
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam
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