Keeping It Real (Looking) - A Tale from the Early TV Cabinet Days

Example of Bird's Eye Maple Veneer

I would like to share a favorite story of mine, one that my Dad told me when I first started working with him at Cabinet Industries. When CI began making cabinets for television manufacturers back in the 1940's, it used real wood, of all things, to build them. TV's were outrageously expensive then and the TV cabinets were likewise very high-end. The TV company buyers were quite demanding. For example, naturally occurring "figure" grain - like bird's eye in Maple - were not welcome (see the photo to the right for an example).

As the television industry evolved over the next few decades, the TV manufacturers cared more and more about the electronics and less and less about the TV cabinet that housed the electronics, at least when it came to budgeting costs. Pressure to reduce the TV cabinet cost component led to something that might sound familiar in the Ikea age: real wood was out and "engineered wood" was in. 

Masonite - a pressed fiberboard - made its way from the back of the TV cabinet to the cabinet's top and sides. To make this possible, CI invested in a special printing press (affectionately called "the print line") to literally print wood grain on the very smooth, plain material that was Masonite.

If you have made it this far, you must be wondering by now what about this TV furniture history lesson could possibly make it a favorite of mine. Well, when CI designed the print roller patterns that would determine the grain printed on the Masonite, the TV company buyers insisted that the rollers have a little bird's eye. Why? To make the simulated wood grain look...more realistic!

So there you have it. I think about it virtually every time I gaze upon a piece of our beautifully unique American solid wood furniture - just like my Grandfather use to make!

Until next time,


Alan Adler
Alan Adler


1 Response


April 01, 2013

I remember the print line.

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