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How can you tell if furniture is well made?

I'm going to be buying some second hand pieces and would love to know what to look for.


Thank you both so far.

I'm probably looking for some more modern pieces but I'll be looking at everything.

3 Answers

  • bobinn
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Quality is in the eye of the beholder. 99% of all furniture manufactured in the last 30 - 40 years is mass produced in a third world country, that utilizes low cost labor. These products while appearing to be stylish, are predominately constructed of man-made materials, (particle board, medium density fiber (cardboard), and utilizes plastic, metals and common woods that are finished to appear as more exotic materials. Pieces made prior to 40-50 years ago, while still mass produced were manufactured here in the United States, by American craftsmen. Materials used then were predominately the species represented, such as Maple, Mahogany, Walnut etc. Today, those names are represented by a "color" indicating what that wood usually looks like.

    Your best guidelines, is to assure quality selection of older furniture, is to inspect the piece to make sure it is structurally sound (no looseness in structural joints), the decorative finishes are sound. Some "age distressing", is normal in older pieces, and actually helps to validate it's authenticity, and in most cases enhances the appearance of the piece. Buy what is sound, and requires little effort to correct problems. Just because a piece is old, doesn't make it valuable. Style, abundance of product, and condition determines the value of a piece.

    Any piece that requires repair to correct a cosmetic/structural problem, will cost more, that the piece is practically worth, but if it is a piece that you like, then it is worth what ever you are willing to put into it. If you are going just for "antiquity" pieces requiring repair, can be "devalued" if repaired using modern materials/practices. Judgement is everything. Learn all you can about the piece, its age, history of ownership if available, and method of care that the piece received.

    Your actual furniture bargan, is really, todays furniture that is being produced overseas (china etc), due to the way it is being offered, with financing extended for long periods, the piece will last for as long as you are willing to take care of it. Just remember, of this type of furniture, if it ever requires repair, be prepared for expenses greater than what the piece originally sold far. In other words, you can replace it less expensively.

    Source(s): I own and operate a furniture restoration business in Canyon Lake, Texas.
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  • Greg C
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    The drawers should be dovetailed on the sides and back. Dust panels should be between drawers. The back of the piece should have wood or plywood instead of cardboard. The top should be solid wood boards and not veneer. Little triangular wood blocks should reinforce the corners of the base and other stress points. Handles are best if they are solid brass versus pot metal. Sorry if some of these words need defined. Hopefully a dictionary will help. Solid wood is always better than fiber board with veneer on it. The one exception to all this is dining room tables are now made with a plywood or honeycombed core that has beautiful grained veneer wood on them and they are structurally better than old table tops, so that is considered standard now. Mahogany is your best wood, then cherry, then pine at the bottom of the list. Oak is not used much now but was popular in manufactured furniture in the early 1900s.

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  • Diane
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    RE: How can you tell what kind of wood a piece of antique furniture is made of? I have a sleigh bed I believe is antique. It is made of a dark wood that seems to be somewhat soft. I would like to find out what kind of wood it is. Does anyone know how to tell?

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