Is plywood acceptable in fine furniture? And, while we’re at it, what is fine furniture? Is it furniture made only with hand tools? Is it made only with solid wood? Is it defined by certain joinery?
My answer to all those questions is, “Whatever gets the job done, has an eye-pleasing design, has well-fitting joints, is strong and has a beautiful finish.”
Of course, “eye-pleasing” is in the optical structure of the beholder. Even classic lines and traditional rules of proportion aren’t going to delight everyone.
How strong is strong? Some might be thinking, “It just needs to be strong enough to last until I move out of this apartment.” “Or the twenty years I live in this house.” Others want to be able to pass their handmade furniture down to their children, grandchildren and beyond. I read a piece recently in which a Japanese woodworker said that 100 year old furniture had barely begun its life, that it might be 200 years old before it really has character.
As for plywood, let’s face it: it’s hard to get stronger than quality plywood.
How beautiful does the finish have to be? It, too, should be durable. To some, that means varnish. To others, paint. Some might think an oil finish is durable enough, even if it has to be renewed periodically. Perhaps the beauty of the oil finish outranks the need for durability.
Can we agree that ill-fitting joints would universally take a piece out of the running for “fine?”
The bottom line? We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and to make and finish our furniture however we like. And, if we want to call it “fine,” after all, it’s our furniture and our viewpoint.