I want to buy a dresser and have found one I like. This one
but I don't know anything about construction and wood quality. So I'm
worried I might be paying 1500 for something that is IKEA quality.
What questions do I ask to determine if it's "worth it" for the price?
Unfortunately, the person/salesman you are asking probably does not know
A few thinks I look for are,
Dovetail on the drawers AND ARE THEY SANDED SMOOTH? Did the manufacturer
care enough to smooth the joints.
Can you really put something in the drawer or is the drawer simply a pretty
part on a closed dresser? A drawer should be deep, front to back. Do the
drawers pull out over 12"?
Do the drawers slide smoothly WITH OUT mechanical slides?
To tell you the truth, $1500 is probably not going to get a dresser that
answer my questions favorably.
A dresser should be well built, nice to look at, and have "lots" of storage.
At most retailers, you're probably right. You could look into
Stickley, especially if you live near central NY and can make it to
one of their factory sales. Even modern Stickley is clearly mass-
produced with the associated shortcuts once you start looking, though.
The first thing I would check is whether it's solid wood - I haven't
shopped for dressers so I don't know what you'll find at any given
price point, but particleboard, plywood, etc. seem almost ubiquitous.
I would argue that plywood may have a place in "real" furniture, but
if the piece is made of real wood, that SHOULD imply that some more
time and possibly care went into making it, and it won't become a
sponge (like particleboard) if it somehow gets wet. Also, if/when it
needs to be repaired or refinished, real wood gives you something with
which to work. To check for real wood, I'd look inside the case, and
at the ends and sides of boards - does the grain match around
corners? Is there end grain visible anywhere? Are there several
matching panels, as would occur if adjacent layers of veneer were
bookmatched or used for drawer fronts?
Dovetails should make a solid joint, even if they're made by machine
(and I can't imagine you'd find handcut dovetails on anything except a
100% custom piece for which you've talked to the maker). How are the
backs and bottoms of the drawers attached, and can the bottoms be
replaced? How thick are the drawer bottoms (if they're thin
hardboard, they'll sag)? How are the handles attached to the drawers,
and will you be able to tighten them if they loosen over time? How
much play is there in the drawer when you wiggle it side to side? I
can't add much about drawer slides, but I'd definitely stay away from
anything that looks thin or feels cheap.
Hope this helps - but remember that most free advice is worth
approximately what you paid for it.
A very interesting question. First of all, asking is no substitute for
looking. The salesman has one objective and that is to make the sale.
Yesterday my wife and I were in a furniture store, high end, with the most
unbelievable junk on display. Opening drawers revealed warped drawer
bottoms. Doors did not fit openings, knobs were not symmetrical etc. It
can be really hard to tell if real wood was used or not. We got fooled on a
set of kitchen cabinets. Looked great, when installed we discovered they
were VERY thin veneer over flakeboard. If there are adjustable shelves
looking inside the holes can reveal the truth. It is totally a matter of
I agree, expensive stores are selling junk made in China with rough
splintery warped cheap woods. We were looking for bedroom furniture and
found nothing that I would buy. Even the drawers were assembled with
knock-down fittings not dovetail joints.
Finally found a local store that sold locally made solid hardwood furniture
with good designs. While it was far from cheap it wasn't totally out of the
world in price. The only man-made material was plywood backs. We bought this
during an annual sale.
On May 17, 11:08 pm, " firstname.lastname@example.org"
The drawer fronts are likely solid maple. (No big deal, not that it's
birds-eye or anything)
The case-work, veneered something.
Sooo.. let's see here. $ 1500.00 retail. He needs to make 50 points
(minimum 35) margin, which means he bought it for $ 750.00. The guy
that made it, wants 50 points as well.
That means it shouldn't cost him more than $375.00. That includes his
labour and packaging.
That leaves us a couple of hundred in materials. (I am being very
It also leaves no room for skilled labour.
I can assure you of one thing though. There is far worse crap out
there than IKEA. It is what it is, and not what it is trying to be
like the piece you linked us to. That piece, would likely sell at IKEA
for less than half that price..in fact wayyyy less... and the quality
wouldn't be that different.
Just a hunch.
Take this picture and walk it around a local wood show. Chat with the
tool stores. Ask around. You could find somebody who would make you
that same piece, better quality, for about the same price. Either an
eager young up-start or a retired gentleman who has to justify a new
tool to his sweetie.
Are there any vocational schools around you?
Option # 2: buy 750 dollars worth of tools and 750 dollars worth of
materials and do it yourself. Build 2. Sell one... etc.
If you pick up a book about how to build some product, you should notice
whats up when checking one out. And if it gives you options, you can form
your own impressions about you would really like , or your preferences wrt
construction. -but if you do it tghis way, it can .....Things just fall
into place. e.g "Making Cabinets[Dressers/High Boys/Armoires]"; try the
library. Its a good question, but the fact is, its just the best way to
answer the question. You can only get a better approach by asking
specifixcs after you know the basics
On 17 May 2007 20:08:32 -0700, " email@example.com"
Q = D + C + M.
Roughly translated this means that Quality equals Design plus
Craftsmanship plus Materials.
In a previous age we lived close enough to the makers to be able to
judge the elements of the equation for ourselves.
We have become less competent through disassociation and the
dismemberment of the organic units of a working society.
We have become consumers, rather than participants in a working
society that is based on an interchange of the goods among various
The result is that we do not know shit from shinola.
If you happen to be a "knowledge worker" who produces code for a
living, you may be about as incompetent to judge the merits of a piece
of furniture as the furniture maker is to judge the merits of your
How then do we make our selections, from either perspective?
We need an honest broker.
That is why god created Ebay.
You will need to educate yourself, as you have attempted to do by
asking your question - but you must go to a further level of effort
and visit those repositories of Q=D+C+M, which may be, in your case,
the higher end furniture houses. In another case, it may be a museum.
Furniture is tactile, perspectival, visual, olfactory, auditory,
fiduciary, historical, cultural, emotional, psychological,
sociological, and on the level that you aspire to it is not a
commodity. It must be experienced in the flesh.
Pinch the flesh. Ask the questions of the joinery. View the visible
and try to intuit what is not.
Will your great-great grandchildren love it? Will they ever get the
chance to decide?
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
Go to IKEA. No, really, go there. Others gave you some ideas on what to
look for. If you go to a cheap furniture store and look at the construction,
it will give you a good idea of what you don't want to see. Feel how the
drawers slide, look at how joints are made, what material is used, etc.
As for the "worth it" question, that is very difficult to answer. I find
that in most goods, as the price doubles, the value goes up about half of
that. OTOH, good furniture can last a couple of generations. Last summer I
refinished two pieces that were used and abused for over 50 years and they
look fantastic and will last at least that much longer.
Ok, forget all the mumbo-jumbo, here are the things you look for...
1. Ask what wood species the piece is made of. For example, is it
'cherry' finish or 'cherry' wood. Sometimes they will say a piece is
cherry or ash or maple, but really they mean that it is finished in
that color, and the actual wood is rubberwood or something.
2. IF the piece is solid wood, make sure they aren't using
'secondary' wood species on the side gables (for example) to lower the
3. Ask for typical signs of quality such as
- english dovetail drawers on the front and the back of the
drawer (pull the drawer out). Is the joinery rough and slapped
together, or finely crafted just so.
- look at the bottom of the drawer....is it ravaged with glue
blocks or is it solidly made- DO NOT let the salesperson trick you
into believing that glued blocks under a drawer is a 'sign of
quality.' Rather, it just means that they've cheaped out on the
4. Look at the finish. Catalyzed lacquer is the most superior finish
available today. What kind of lacquer is being used to insure that the
finish will not pose a problem in the near future.
5. Quality pieces are well sanded in unusual places that you don't
normally reach for. feel inside drawers, along bottom mouldings, turn
chairs upside down.
6. Are tall pieces finished on top?
7. Are there adjustable levelers on the feet of heavy pieces?
8. How is the bed constructed. Most people tug on the footboard, but
not the headboard. Does the bed wobble or squeak?
If you need more information, check out these guys in Canada who do it
right.... www.westbrosfurniture.com. There is a section call signs of
quality, and the West Bros. difference that you will find interesting.
"Secondary" wood is common on hidden and internal parts on the finest
antiques. No responsible craftsperson would dispute this.
In some places, high quality plywood and composites are not only
acceptable, but preferred, such as veneer substrates or drawer
As a CNC dovetail machine does, even on cheap bathroom vanity drawers?
Sliding dovetails are very common at the back of drawers, and some
very high-end stuff can have joinery designed to show no dovetail at
You can tell catalyzed lacquer from other finishes by looking at it?
Expecting an identical finish to the visible parts, in non-visible
places is pretty ridiculous.
they actually mean another. So many times people are mislead by thinking they
are gettting a solid cherry dresser for example, and really they're getting
solid cherry fronts and maple gables.
front as a 'vanity' feature, where front and back dovetails are used because it
makes a stronger, longer-lasting drawer. There is no doubt that there are other
types of joinery, however, I think that overall it is believed that the english
dovetail technique is the most superior out there. Do you agree? <S>
smallest things...like simple sanding, it's a good tipoff that the craftsman has
spent the proper amount of time and care on the big things. There's no arguing
and looking down onto the top of a tall entertainment console only to see bare
wood, or finish overspray. Again, just because a piece of furniture doesn't have
this doesn't mean it's not good, but these are signs of quality which
differentiate one piece from another. <S>
Ahh, yes ... the much maligned hevea brasiliensis, which simply resists
being used in quality construction regardless of the craftsman's attempts.
Where's the "side gable" in piece of furniture?
Won't half-blind "american dovetails" do on a drawer?
Yeah, watch out for those ravaging glue blocks ... they have to be
registered in most places.
Hmmm ... pre or post? Anyone want to buy some shellac?
Just ask the salesman, he'll tell you ... for sure!
That depends entirely upon what the saleslady looks like.
... and be sure to stay away from 150 year old antiques still going strong.
Too short? Don't ask, don't look.
Yep, real sign of quality ... never see these on cheap furniture!
Tug? There is only one, manly, way to find out whether a bed wobbles or
squeaks. Maybe that saleslady can help?
LOL ... sure thing, brought to you by the folks who claim that:
"The term "solid wood" may be confusing to some consumers, since both solid
and veneered woods are of solid wood construction. In fact, veneers are made
from many pieces of plywood material which remain after a tree is milled."
> Good luck.
Yes sir ... with that kind of "mumbo jumbo", he'll certainly need all he can
You know, there are ignorant people like you out there that don't
really have anything else to do but cut others down. Then there are
people that do actually want to help. And, ah, by the way, the
information was provided by a happy customer to this manufacturer, not
the manufacturer selling his goods. The question was originally asked
because they were looking for some answers- if you don't agree than
just give your opinion and not just run at the mouth like an idiot
making yourself look retarded. Jerk,
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