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What to Look for when Buying Wooden Furniture

Apr 26, 2016


To some extend, buying wooden furniture is a bit like collecting or buying art, each of us has our own unique style and taste. Also, like art, it often takes a lot of experience to be able to tell the quality work form something that looks good, but is in fact inferior. We are not talking about the chipboard, DIY kit set stuff that is sold by some famous chains, but rather solid timber furniture.

This guide is not going to make you an expert but hopefully it will give you a few tips to start you on the right road.

First up, take an overview. We detailed the pros and cons of  different types of wood earlier so hopefully you know which is a soft wood and which a hardwood. But remember, this distinction applies the tree, the timber, NOT the furniture. Bearing that in mind,  have a look to see how solid the piece is made, pick it up [if you can] it should not feel light or flimsy. Do the handles and drawers feel solid, do they move in and out easily? Do the drawers have end stops to prevent them falling out completely? The base of the drawer should not be stapled or gang nailed but ride in groves.

Look a t the way it is put together, are their nails protruding? Is it stabled or gang nailed? All these things indicate poor quality.  Screwing is a step up,  are they countersink,? Wooden dowels [round bits of wood] in place of screws are good too. Major joints should come together something like  jigsaw pieces, this gives strength and rigidity. Can you see traces of glue oozing out from the joints. All these little things tell you a lot about the quality of the workmanship.

Ideally, pieces should be well finished so look for any rough surfaces, especially at the back. Average cabinet makers don't bother here as few people look, so this is a good sign for quality and pride in workmanship. Check for cracks, or holes, in some cases this might be inherent in the timber type and can add to the look, but it is up to you. Look at the stain or coating, is it even or  are their dark spots and blotches?

If you are looking at a high gloss [shiny] finished piece, look more closely. Get down look across and from angels, are there and signs of “dust “ spots, bubbles or unevenness? A gloss finish requires a series of coats with sanding in between, a time consuming business. Has the cabinet maker taken any short cuts?

The above is a rough guide only, remember, quality comes at a price and you do get what you pay for. So, if your budget is limited, you may need to make some recomposes, but still aim for the best you can get in your price range. When you finally get her home, don't forget that a little love and kindness goes a long way, check our article The luxury of solid wood furniture for tips on how to extend its life.

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