Homespun Design Blog

How to Recognize Quality in Furniture

Handmade Furniture

There are several ways to tell if a piece of furniture is good quality.  

  1. You should be able to lean on it and have it feel very solid and sturdy.  
  2. If it's solid wood it should be very heavy (though watch out for MDF, which is also very heavy but prone to chipping).
  3. If you look at the sides and edges of the furniture you should be able to tell if a laminate or veneer has been used, though some high quality pieces of furniture do use veneer.
  4. Watch out for staples, screws and visible glue.  

But beyond these more obvious qualities, there are also some joint construction techniques to look for that are hallmarks of hand craftsmanship.

Dovetail

Also known as a swallowtail or fantail joint, the dovetail is one of the most classic and strongest types of furniture joints. You will frequently find dovetail joints where the front or back of a drawer meets the side panels, and can recognize dovetail by the interlocking tails connecting one piece to another. Dovetail is usually only found in solid wood furniture, though sometimes you may find that the front of a drawer has alayer of veneer in its front facade.  

Dovetail joints get their strength from how the tails are shaped, winder on one end than they other, making it very difficult to pull the teeth apart. Dovetail joints are usually also finished with a high quality glue to add extra strength to the joint.

Mortise-and-Tenon

Mortise-and-Tenon joints have been used around the world, for nearly as long as humans have been building structures. Mortise-and-Tenon is typically used when a woodworker is joining two pieces of wood at a right angle. A basic mortise-and-tenon joint has two components: the tenon tongue and the mortise hole. The tongue (tenon) of one piece of wood is inserted into the typically square or rectangular-shaped hole (mortise), and then can be wedged, glued or pinned into place.

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