What is Manufactured Wood? January 13 2014, 0 Comments

By Kevin Scott

This is one of the questions we get asked most often. Making furniture is expensive, and requires complex manufacturing processes that take raw materials like wood, metal, or glass and turn them into precise pieces that fit together to make a piece of furniture. This article is focused on the manufacturing of wood furniture, specifically wood desks.

The most common question we get asked before we get asked about manufactured wood is: "Is this desk solid wood?" What a customer typically means when they ask this question is, "Is this desk real wood or is it that flimsy, light, fake wood stuff that falls apart after a few months?"

Well to answer either question we have to untangle the questions and the underlying assumptions, and hopefully in a few words we will all be on the same page about what solid wood furniture is, what manufactured wood furniture is, and what the cheap fake wood furniture is.

First, solid wood furniture is furniture that is made of only the wood of a tree and the hardware to keep it together--it is crafted out of large hunks of wood into smaller portions in the manufacturing process, and then assembled to form an impressive piece of furniture that is very heavy and very sturdy (and typically quite expensive). Here is a picture of a solid wood desk we have on the site:

As you can see, this solid oak desk is large and impressive, but if you clicked on the picture you can see it's also quite expensive. Crafting furniture from solid wood produces heirloom quality pieces that can last over 100 years and can be passed down, but they are very heavy and very expensive. So manufacturers looked for another option, just like the manufacturers of wood flooring looked for another option besides solid wood hardwood floors.

What is manufactured wood, then? Manufactured wood desks, like manufactured (or engineered) wood flooring, consist of a top layer of real wood (often called wood veneer). Typically this top layer of wood veneer is covered with a thin coating of melamine to protect the wood surface and prevent scratching, staining, or burning of the wood. Under this top layer of wood veneer is pressed board, sometimes called MDF (medium density fiberboard). This substance is made of wood also, but it is wood composite--different pieces of wood combined and pressed together. It is very similar in appearance and quality to plywood, which is one of the main building blocks of most homes. Using this wood composite has a couple main advantages: it is considerably cheaper, and it is lighter. This means it makes furniture more affordable and easier to ship (as well as easier to move around for the users of the furniture). However, don't make the mistake of thinking that manufactured wood is light or flimsy. Manufactured wood desks are quite heavy, and the wood composite under the wood veneer is not cheap or light. It is lighter than solid wood, but it's still made of wood and is quite heavy. A typical 60" desk will weigh 100 pounds or more. The manufactured wood desks we offer on the site are quite heavy and very sturdy. In fact, any desks that get negative reviews we take down immediately, so that we offer only the highest quality manufacturers.  So although these manufactured wood desks are not "solid wood," they are very high quality (and much more affordable).

Here is a picture of what a cross-section of a manufactured wood desk might look like. See the real wood (wood veneer) top coated to protect the top surface, and underneath are typically layers of pressed board or wood composite that is typically light in color like plywood.

Below is a picture of the desk I am sitting at while I write, from Bestar, one of our best selling manufacturers. It is made of manufactured wood and I will tell you this desk is very sturdy, quite heavy, and very well-made.


So what is that cheap, light, flimsy, fake wood stuff you were thinking of? That furniture is made of something most people call particle board. There is a huge difference between particle board and manufactured wood. One is made of real wood (manufactured wood) and the other contains no wood whatsoever. They call it particle board to make it sound like it has wood, but it does not. You will find very cheap furniture at Walmart or other inexpensive stores made of this, and typically such furniture will not last more than a year. We sell nothing made of particle board on the site. I hope that explains a bit better what manufactured wood is, and gives you more confidence as you search our site!