There’s a lot that goes in to making furniture – pretty much anyone who took Jr High shop class knows that.? But, what does it take to make quality furniture? Believe it or not it is more than just craftsmanship – it’s also the knowledge and know-how of the craftsman him (or her) self that can make or break a piece of furniture’s quality, appearance, and longevity.? We’ll break it down into several distinct parts so that you, too, can be “in-the-know”.
Furniture is made out of different woods that can be classified as hard, soft, or engineered. The type of wood used is one of the factors that determines not only how long your furniture will last, but how it will fare over years of use as well. It?s not difficult to judge quality in wood furniture, and you certainly don?t need to be an expert to do so!
Generally, quality wood furniture is made out of ?hard wood?, which is wood that comes from deciduous trees, such as oak, maple, walnut, cherry, birch, mahogany and teak. This type of wood will have been air dried as well as kiln dried to ensure all moisture has been removed. ?Soft woods? come from coniferous trees like pine, fir, cedar and redwood ? it is quite possible to find quality pieces from these woods as well but, since they are more prone to scratches and dents, furniture fashioned from such may require more care.
Much can be said about the construction of furniture as well, due to the fact that the sturdiness and joinery of a piece can tell you a lot about its quality. Mortise and Tenon and dovetails are two of the oldest means of putting furniture together and make for the strongest and best looking joints. Good joints can also have dowels or screws, but will never be stapled. And, any glue used should never show outside the joint. Another hallmark of quality construction is the addition of corner blocks, which add strength and stability. Corner blocks are not visible from the exterior, but are instead bolted to both sides of interior corners.
Rear panels that face the wall are typically attached with screws to aide in stability and, even though you won?t be seeing the portion that backs to the wall, there?s no reason for the quality of those areas to be any less. These parts should be sanded smooth and well fitted ? this is an important feature of well constructed furniture. Other areas of note are drawers and doors. Drawers should fit well, glide effortlessly, and have stops to prevent it from being pulled out or falling. Doors should close neatly and be flush with the cabinet front and the hardware should be of good quality.
The finish of a piece is distinguishing as well. Sanding, staining and finishing are all part of the process and poor workmanship at any of these stages can affect the overall quality of the piece in question. Sanding is the first step in the process, and a good piece will exhibit no rough patches when you run your hand over it ? and, improperly sanded wood will not take stain evenly, so make sure to inspect the finish from different angles. A good stain will not only enhance the woods? natural beauty, but adds color and character to the wood as well. It has the ability to make one type of wood look like another, or make two different types of wood look similar. A high quality stain will be even, without any dark spots, and all sides should be the same tone. Finally, finishes range from matte to high-gloss. The depth and richness that a finish brings to a piece is achieved from the application of several light coats of finish, with sanding between each application. A quality finish will be satiny smooth and completely free of bubbles, rough spots, or dust specks.
So, the next time you?re looking at furniture, make sure to check out the build material, overall construction and finish and, most importantly, take your time! And, remember…quality furniture really is worth it!