Ah technology. We live in an age where people carry around their entire CD collections in a device the size of a deck of cards, digitally record TV shows to be viewed at their convenience, and conduct business globally with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. "What does this have to do with furniture?" you may be asking. Well, technology has changed the construction of furniture greatly over the last 20-30 years. Wood furniture used to be easily defined. If a piece of furniture was made of wood, there was no question it was solid wood or pieces of solid wood fashioned together to form a table or chair or chest of drawers.
Today, solid wood furniture is becoming increasingly hard to find and can be very expensive. Veneers and engineered woods have become the material of choice for most furniture manufacturers, with terms like 'medium density fiberboard' and 'hardboard' replacing oak, maple, and birch. The following will hopefully clear everything up and tell you just how your next furniture purchase was made.
A piece said to be made of solid wood generally means that all exposed parts are made of solid board. No veneers or particleboards are used. Solid board can always be identified by following a seam to the end, where you find the "end" grain. A lot of veneers are glued over the edges to look like solid wood, but they are usually faced on the end and show no end grain.
All-wood furniture is not necessarily solid wood. In most cases, this means that veneers are used to achieve the look of solid wood. A veneer is a very thin layer of wood often overlaid on plywood or particleboard. The best quality veneers use solid wood cores for added strength and shock absorption.
Particleboard is made from grinding wood into very small chips and particles that are bonded with synthetic resins under heat and pressure to form hard panels. The most common type of particleboard used in furniture manufacturing is medium density fiberboard, or MDF. Another type of particleboard you may encounter is hardboard, which has a greater density than MDF.