Is it Wood? These days there is a huge demand for affordable furniture of all kinds. With this in mind. there is a need to reduce manufacturing input, to keep production costs down. This has resulted in the development and use of synthetic 'wood surfaces'. It may not be generally realised but, traditional construction with a frame for panels to be attached to, and natural wood veneers to cover the surfaces are a labour intensive and materially expensive process. So you will only find this at a much higher priced end of the market. The extent that these synthetic surfaces are used is quite surprising. You will find them on laminated flooring too! Incidentally, I have a new piano bought just under a year ago that has such a surface, and as a professional wood finisher even I had to take a second look!. Well what do I mean by 'synthetic' wood surface? This surface is called a foil finish. This consist of a sandwich of plastic layers. I suspect that it consists of the following: 1. A base layer, a thermoplastic/setting glue film. 2. A photographic image of a wood veneer, and 3. A clear third layer of protective film. The 'foil' finish comes in rolls, rather like wallpaper though in different widths and is vacuum pressed onto a substrate, normally of man- made board, mdf (medium density fibreboard) or chipboard (literally wood chips held together with glue). Due to the nature of the material you will find that the finish is used only on man-made boards simply because of the stability of the material. If the substrate flexed the foil finish would distort with the slightest of movements and the effect would be lost. Bearing in mind the nature of the material, it is resistant to liquids but, is more prone to impact damage and is tricky though not impossible to repair. How do you recognise such a finish? 1. View the surface from different angles, there is no contrast, the light will reflect uniformly, as there isn't any true grain to refract the light differently. 2. If the surface has an open grain you will see that the graining has an even depth. The author has been qualified professional wood finisher for 17 years and has a web site http://www.woodfinishinghelp.com that has downloadable report 'Caring for your furniture'. Video course will shortly follow so you too can learn the trade!