One manufacturer uses quartersawn northern red oak with 5/4 tops, english dovetail joints, dust covers between each row of drawers, an "extra large heavy duty wood rail system with oversized steel end supports," and solid 1/2-inch cedar drawers with ply cedar bottoms.
However, this manufacturer also uses 1/8" plywood (3-4 layers, all wood) for the backs of their dressers. From reading previous posts on this group I know that new furniture manufacturers almost always use plywood in their pieces these days (even new Stickley!). However, 1/8" seems pretty thin to me.
The second manufacturer doesn't use plywood anywhere in their dressers: "All drawers, backs, sides, bottoms, dust covers are 100% solid oak," and the backs are finished. They also use english dovetail joints (done by hand), solid oak drawers, solid oak dustcovers between drawers, and center wooden glides. However, this second manufacturer uses appalachian white oak that is NOT quartersawn. Rather, they use a process they call "strip quartersawn." Now, I can't find a reference to this term in any prior posts on rec.woodworking. This is how the maker describes the process: "By purchasing inch to inch-and-a-half flat sawn board, boards can be ripped into one-inch strips. These strips are then rotated or flipped 90 degrees to expose the hidden ray flake pattern and then glued together to form normal width boards. The board can then be used to construct mission furniture with large amounts of beautiful ray flake pattern showing - often more than true quarter sawn. Same look - better price and environmentally sound."
Looking at the pictures online, I can definitely see the strips where a lighter strip adjoins a slightly darker strip with a different grain. However, I can also see similar contrast lines in the quartersawn dressers, just fewer of them, and the grain does seem much richer and more variegated in the quartersawn pieces.
So, my question is, of these two dressers, which would be considered the better quality piece? The one that uses quartersawn planks but has a 1/8" plywood back, or the no-plywood piece that's constructed with the thinner strips?
Unfortunately, I can't afford a custom-made piece made with quartersawn planks and no plywood (from my research it seems that a custom 12-drawer mule chest would cost at least $6K-8K, which is about 3 times what I have to spend.) So, I will have to compromise somewhere. I'd appreciate any advice you can offer to help me make an informed purchase.