There seems to be some confusion about furniture made with veneers. To those who are not woodworkers, most people associate veneered furniture as being of low quality, or just plain cheap. This is not necessarily the case.
If we look at history, veneered furniture has been used since the Egyptians. And until recently, almost all furniture was carefully handmade. Beautiful wood veneers were used in the making of pre-industrial pieces of furniture of all kinds.
If you look at some of theveneered images above, those furniture pieces certainly are not cheap.
Of course, modern industrial furniture construction has certainly lowered the cost of furniture production, and this has led to a lessening in quality of the overall furniture product, not just the veneer.
Office furniture for example, is often particle board covered by a very thin veneer. Most of the time, the 'veneer' is not even wood, but a plastic laminate of some kind.
Even if the piece of furniture does contain real wood veneers, the reason why this type of furniture is cheap, is that the veneer is incredibly thin. Modern veneer manufacturing has allowed makers of veneers to be able to slice veneers into a thickness of 1/128"!
A small scratch or bump on the piece of furniture can easily break through the wood veneer. And this is why the piece of furniture is so cheap.
It used to be that veneers were typically cut at 1/16" thick, which is 8 times thicker!
Woodworkers and furniture makers that make hand crafted furniture, still use these thicker veneers to construct their pieces. These are usually very high quality furniture pieces. You won't find this kind of furniture at your large retail store however.
Buying Wooden Furniture
General advice about buying a piece of wooden furniture is that in many cases veneers have been used somewhere within the piece. Unless the piece is being advertised as solid wood, I would be in doubt.
This is especially true of coffee tables; table and legs. Most kitchen tables will have solid wood tops, but make sure you do a proper inspection underneath. You might spot something that indicates a veneer has been used. And of course, if the price looks to good to be true, then it probably is.
Veneers Pictured Above:
Anigre Fiddleback - Birdseye Maple