I am often asked how you can judge the quality of wood furniture. People have written entire books
on the subject but it really comes down to three things; material, construction and finish.
Wood furniture is constructed from wood classified as hard, soft or engineered. The best quality furniture is usually that made from hardwood, such as oak, maple, mahogany, teak, walnut, cherry or birch.
Coniferous trees such as pine, fir, cedar or redwood provide softwoods. They can provide good quality furniture but tend to require more care as they are susceptible to scratches and dents.
Most modern furniture is constructed from plywood or engineered wood. It can provide sturdy, long lasting and attractive furniture, especially when combined with high end veneers.
The way a piece of furniture has been put together can determine its beauty, functionality and how long it will last.
Traditionally, mortise and tenon and dovetail provide the strongest and visually attractive joints. Beware of staples.
A good quality desk or chest of drawers will have dust panels or thin sheets of wood between the drawers. This makes them structurally stronger and protects clothing and papers from dust. Drawers should be a good fit and glide smoothly in and out.
Doors should open and close easily and when shut should be flush with the cabinet front.
Back panels facing the wall will usually be attached by screws and should be sanded smooth.
A good stain will enhance the natural beauty of the wood and add character. High quality staining will be even and not leave any dark spots. The sides and ends should be of the same tone.
Finishes can range from high gloss to matte. The best finishes will be satiny smooth and free of dark spots, specks and bubbles. They are also finished on the back and the underside to reduce the chances of swelling or shrinking.