Being a non-worker, I'm seeking advice on how to identify what is
quality furniture at a retail store and what is junk. Is it generally
safe to say that the more expensive stuff is better than the cheaper
stuff? Any specific retail manufucturers that produce a good product?
Any I should stay away from?
I'm going to be buying a wall unit entertainment center come this
winter and want to know what I'm halfway doing since I haven't made
any major furniture purchases in quite a while. Looking to spend
about $3000 and need a unit that will acoomodate a rear projection
Why not get one custom made? There are many good cabinet shops that can
give you exactly what you want, in the wood you want.
This fellow just updated his web page and probably has some god examples of
what you want. Find someone in your area to do the same.
If you go look at furniture in a showroom, you should look for all solid
wood or solid plywoods with no particle board or pressboard. You should
also look at the drawer connections to see if they are dovetailed (the best)
or dadoed/sliding dovetailed or butt jointed (like my kitchen, I pulled a
drawer front off the first day in our brand new house, "Honey, I need to buy
a dovetail jig"). Finally, solid wood door panels (usually raised) rather
than plywood is a class touch, but plywood works too. You may not be able
to tell the quality of the cabinet jointery unless it is exposed, but real
jointery techniques with a minumum of fasteners is another sign of quality.
I have plenty of experience with particle board furniture and I can tell you
that the above guidelines are what you need for the most sturdy furniture.
Especially if it will ever be moved. To really get all of these features,
you are either going to have to go very high end, or have someone custom
make this stuff for you. I try to tell my wife that the $10,000 worth of
tools in the garage means that she will never have to look at another busted
particle board shelf. She could dance on top of any of the furniture (I
encourage this) that I make with no risk of damage.
When looking at a furniture store the first thing I look at is the drawers.
Do the drawers seem to be almost as deep as the cabinet or does it only come
out about 11" and is only 3/4 the depth of the cabinet? You are paying for
the cabinet, you might as well get the full use of it. Shallow drawers
waste your valuable room. Better drawers will be constructed with Dove
Tail joints and the manufacturers that take pride in their product pay
attention to the details that are behind closed drawers and doors. Are the
dove tail joints sanded smooth, or are they rough to the touch..
If you are truly looking for "quality" furniture, shy away from particle
board or particle board veneers in the construction. You can often tell by
looking at the back, ends or bottom of the piece, although manufacturers are
getting better at hiding it. However, be prepared to pay.
Careful how you ask the question ... ask specifically whether there is
particle board in the construction ... in Texas, if you query a salesman
with "Is this wood?", they can legally say "yes" (and will), even if it is
constructed entirely from particle board (a wood product).
That is not to say that particle board does not have its place in furniture
building and won't suffice for budget, or even mid priced pieces that are
certainly functional ... but I would hesitate to expect to hand those piece
down to your grandkids.
After a recent flood, any furniture in my house containing PB in the
construction was considered an immediate and total loss by the insurance
company, no further questions asked. ALL the "real" wood pieces were
salvageable with a minimum of restoration for the most part.
Cabinet grade plywood is acceptable, maybe even desirable in some areas of
the construction for its dimensional stability, although the absolute best
furniture seems to be made entirely of wood with as few steps as possible
from the tree.
Again, be prepared to pay for wood construction.
I agree, but even our most high-dollar rich people furniture with all the
fancy oak carvings isn't pure wood. You just about aren't going to be able
to purchase pure wood furniture if you're buying from a store. Plywood is
all but a foregone conclusion.
As far as plywood though, I don't see that it's a big detractor if it's
quality plywood. I have a solid oak desk large enough to land an airplane
on that I got for $5 at auction. It's predominantly oak plywood, with
thick, solid facing everywhere that's visible. The drawers are oak all
around, including the bottoms and the dividers. It's the nicest piece of
furniture I own, hands down, and I don't think any less of it for using
plywood. It would be difficult to make something this big without plywood.
(And it was only $5.... I just used this message as an excuse to brag about
my desk again... :) $5!! )
Pay BIGTIME. Thousands and thousands.
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < email@example.com>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
Here in the UK, that was true until a couple of years ago. Now our
better department stores are flooded with SE Asian furniture that's
made of quite nice timber, no plywood, but appears to have had the
joinery done with an axe and a trowel full of car bodyfiller. You can
usually spot this stuff because it only comes in one colour, dark
I make pieces with or without plywood. I'll do you a bookcase with
shiplapped oak back panels if you want, but it'll cost more.
For that sort of money I would be looking at getting it made for you - look
under Cabinetmakers in the Yellow pages and check out some of the local
Things I would look for:
1. Materials - real wood vs chipboard or MDF - ask as some of the veneers
can fool lots of people.
2. Joins are they dovetails in the drawers? The right angle joints nailed or
screwed or with a nice rabbeted joint?
3. The finish - is it some sprayed laquer or a hand rubbed French polish?
4. The design - To me mass produced things have a "look".
That is just my opinion - others may disagree or think other things more
If you are lucky enough to live near Amish country, you can custom
order furniture from them. Not cheap, but always quality. You can
sometimes tell quality by close inspection and turning the piece
upside down. I don't think buying a furniture piece specifically for
a TV is a good investment since TV's are changing, and will likely
become some sort of gas-plasma picture that hangs on the wall--then
your entertainment center won't serve much purpose. Perhaps an
armoire would be a better choice?
Good furniture is expensive. Not all furniture that is expensive is
In general, materials to stay away from are particle board, adhesive
veneers, and kind of fiber board, and staples. I can never bring
myself to spend a lot of good money on furniture. My thinking is like
this: If I spend a little money for junk and it breaks, who cares.
If I spend a lot of money for nice furniture and it lasts a while,
great. But if i spend a lot of money for junk, it irritates the
daylights out of me.
Sometimes, at the mall, when my wife is wandering arround a store i
don't want to go to, I'll visit the furniture stores for a laugh. The
first thing I do is open a drawer and look at the side. Dovetails are
best (almost never see them). Sliding dovetails second best and
accetable. Stapled butt joints are worst and never acceptable. I'd
say i see stapled butt joints maybe 90% of the time. The next thing I
do is knock on the back of the furniture piece. That board on the
back triangulates everything and makes a huge difference in the
stability and quality of a piece. How thick the back is, how it's
attached, and what it's made of will determine how many times you can
move that piece of furnture before it disintegrates. 3/8" or thicker
is best. That's what I put in the furniture i make and I've never
seen that in a store bought piece. 1/4" plywood is acceptable. And
fiber board or anything 1/8" thick is not acceptable. (to me). If
the back is stapled or nailed on only, the fasteners can work
themselves out. I perfer to glue on the back.
In my opinion, veneers are ok if the veneer is figured. If not,
there's no excuse for not using solid wood.
Similar to the back, knock on the bottoms of the drawers.
Many hand carved looking details are apliques. I like to avoid such
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