Solid Wood: How to Spot It
Part 2 of our series on Solid Wood: Why Buy It, How to Spot It, and How to Fix It
There are a few tricks to help you be confident that you are buying a true solid wood piece and not something passed off as solid wood.
Since solid wood is made of of boards of wood and there will be end grain visible on the edges of a piece. You will typically spot it on the side edges of the piece. End gain looks like either slightly curved or very curved lines with lots of little dots in between. Those curved lines are the rings of the tree. Straight grain will be perpendicular to the end grain (such as the top and front) and will not feature the tiny dots. It may not be always straight, but it won’t curve in uniform way like the end grain does.
You can usually tell where the sides of the boards begin and end. These carefully joined edges, or "joinery," are put together by skilled craftsmen, creating a joint that is much stronger than the wood itself. Joinery involves reducing the stress inherent in natural wood by randomizing the grain patterns. The result is a compelling and attractive natural flow of wood grain fibers unique to each tree and therefore each piece of hand crafted solid wood furniture.
If you can (without knocking over any accessories placed on top) try to lift one corner. It’ll feel heavy, solid and built to last.
Any pieces featuring a live edge look can only be solid wood. Live edge is where they take the natural randomly curving sides of the tree and use them instead of cutting the wood straight.
Laminate or veneer cannot be carved so if you see carved details you know it’s solid wood.