How can I tell if it's really a solid wood desk?

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Old 10-29-12, 09:34 AM
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How can I tell if it's really a solid wood desk?

I'm the the market for a used executive solid wood desk. So off to Craigslist I go. There are several desks on Craigslist averaging about $100. Recently I went to look at one that was listed as solid wood. The draws themselves were not solid, I could tell it was a veneer. The desk top and draw fronts was a little harder to tell. I tried scratching the wood with my finger nail to see if I can determine if it was solid. With the draws not being solid, it wasn't a deal breaker. But since I couldn't determine if the rest of the desk was solid I decided not to buy that one.

So, how can a novice like myself tell if it's really a solid wood desk? What are some signs or characteristics to look for when determining a solid wood desk?
 
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Old 10-29-12, 10:51 AM
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It can be difficult. My wife looked at some wood furniture awhile back and it sure looked like wood - even had knots and other marks in the "picture" veneer finish. I've also seen items marketed as solid wood, and I guess they were - particle board covered with a veneer

Don't really have a good answer for you other than to inspect closely, especially the areas not readily seen. If the top is solid wood, expect the bottom side to look the same except for not finished as nicely.
 
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Old 10-29-12, 01:41 PM
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Very little affordable (relative term) furniture is solid wood anymore. I guess your first clue is "$100". Look for dovetailed drawer joints although this is not a guarantee. Check out some moving/warehouse type places that sell used office furniture. Older office desks were usually solid but not real fancy.
 
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Old 10-29-12, 02:31 PM
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It would be hard to explain what to look for. Spotting that stuff comes with experience. If you can see all edges of the board, then you can look at grain direction. If the ends of the board don't have end grain showing, then it is veneer. You can also look for the glue line.

If you are looking at the top of the desk and all the "planks" look to have very similar figure, then it is veneer.

There are all sorts of veneered products. You can have a solid core of lumber with a nicer veneer on both faces. I also wouldn't expect the rest of the case to be solid. I find it reasonable for that to be veneered.

I don't see what the problem with veneer would be unless you really abuse the top of your desks.
 
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Old 10-29-12, 02:34 PM
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Bring a chainsaw with you and cut it in half before buying.

Or turn it upside down and look at any edges that normally don't show such as the bottom of the feet. You could even, with permission, scratch the hidden area bit with a pen knife.
 
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Old 10-31-12, 07:49 AM
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I like the chainsaw idea
Here are a few examples of desk in my area from Craiglist

This one doesn't state solid wood
Executive Desk

Executive Large Wood Desk

Broyhill Office Desk

This on is interesting " Real wood, no particle board. Laminate Top" What does that mean?
Walnut Desk. 76 x 38" top. Real Wood, Very Heavyweight (#9)

The reason I'm looking for solid wood is because in case I need to sand and stain, I'll be able to.
 
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Old 10-31-12, 08:18 AM
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I'm not positive it would work for desks, but for guitars you would look at the curve of the sound hole to see that the grain goes all the way through. so you may be able to check the ends if you can see the grain. also for the sides of the guitar you would look on the inside and outside to check if they match. i would think for a desk the grain would also match top/bottom.
 
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Old 10-31-12, 10:18 AM
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" Real wood, no particle board. Laminate Top" What does that mean?
It depends on what the laminate is made of. A wood veneer type laminate can be lightly sanded and refinished. A formica like laminate can not be refinished but should hold up to more abuse.
 
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