Today’s post is Part II of our Hardwood Furniture Buyers Guide.

Hardwood Furniture Finishes

Hardwood furniture finishes: oil, wax, lacquer or poly?
Which fine hardwood furniture finish is right for you: oil, wax, lacquer or poly (hint: got kids?  Go for the lacquer or poly)?  This cherry wood dining table is finished with a blend of hand rubbed linseed oil and Poly gel.

Waxes and oils, such as beeswax or mineral oil are often used as hardwood furniture finishes because they sink into the fibers and condition the wood. These finishes bring out the grain of the wood and create a soft, supple surface but they need to be reapplied periodically. Alternatively, lacquer, shellac, varnish, poly and other non-porous coatings may be applied just once, creating a water proof coating that is almost maintenance free.

Which is best for you?  Well if you have young children you many not have time to be oiling furniture, so lacquer may be your best bet.  On the other hand, if you adore the feel of a well-oiled natural wood surface and you don’t mind taking the time to re-oil periodically, go for the oil and wax.

Care of Fine Hardwood Furniture Finishes

Fine hardwood furniture is an investment that should increase in value over time, however that depends on how well you care for it (particularly for furniture with an oil or wax finish). If you follow the furniture maker’s instructions your wood furniture should last a lifetime and more!

Oil Finish on Quality Hardwood Furniture
This Cherry Moon Nightstand is made with cherry hardwood and finished with natural linseed oil. To keep the wood soft and supple, it is smart to re-oil it 1/month during the first year.

Protect Against Water and Humidity

Wood is very sensitive to changes in relative humidity. As the weather changes, so does the relative humidity in your home and in the moisture content of the wood in your furniture. Fine hardwood furniture that’s coated with lacquer or poly is sealed and protected from the occasional water spill.  More about care for wood furniture with a lacquer finish.

Replenish Oil and Wax Finishes Periodically

Oil and wax finishes must be replenished frequently during the first year. A rule of thumb is: clean and oil your wood furniture immediately upon delivery into you home. After that oil it once/week for the first month. Then oil 1/month for the first year. After that oil your furniture 1/year. This will result in a soft supple patina that will not only protect your furniture but add to it’s beauty and value over time. More about care for wood furniture with an oil-wax finish.

Construction Details in Fine Hardwood Furniture

Joinery

Mortise and tenon joinery illustration
Mortise and tenon joinery is often used to attach side pieces to corner pieces and legs.

Joinery speaks clearly about the craftsmanship of a piece. Be sure to inspect corners and drawers to see how they’re crafted and look for these robust and durable joints:

Mortise-and-Tenon Joint

Mortise-and-tenon joint are often used in armoires, dressers, chests, cabinets, tables, chairs, desks and bookcases. The tenon (projecting piece) on a board is inserted into the mortise (cavity) on another board, then glued. An M-T joint may be further secured with a peg inserted through both pieces.

Dovetail Joint

The dovetail joint is typically used in drawer construction. Wedge-shaped projections on one piece interlock with corresponding slots on another.

Hardwood furniture construction details
Dovetail joints are shown attaching drawer fronts to the sides of the drawers (middle photos). Quality hardwood furniture also employs sturdy hinges and finished backs on case goods.

Use of Veneers

Veneers have taken a bad rap over the past several decades because much of the cheap, imported furniture sold in big box stores is made with low quality plywood or fiber board, then covered with a thin wooden veneer. Although solid wood construction is often preferred by those seeking high quality hardwood furniture, there are certain furniture designs that require veneers, for example sleigh beds that have curved wooden panels.

Why Hardwood versus Softwood Furniture?

In the world of trees and lumber, hardwood is relatively rare. About 80% of all timber comes from softwoods like pine, hemlock, cedar, and spruce. Only 20% of our timber is from hardwood trees like cherry, maple, oak, walnut, mahogany, teak and beech. As such, hardwood is relatively rare and expensive so why choose it over softwood? Generally speaking hardwood is more dense than softwood and has a tighter grain making it more resistant to decay. The density also makes hardwood more difficult for craftspeople to work with, but the beauty of the grain and the patina that develops over time makes solid hardwood furniture a prized possession.

If you’re in the market for high quality furniture, what’s your favorite wood? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments section below.

 

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Hardwood Dining Table and Chairs | Cherry
This hardwood dining table, buffet and chair set is made of American black cherry wood.  Mortise and tenon joints are used as well as dovetails in the drawers of the buffet.

Shopping for top quality hardwood furniture? We encourage customers to take their time and learn to enjoy the details that make fine wood furniture an heirloom you family will cherish for generations. This short guide tells you what to look for in your fine wood furniture, including types of hardwoods, joinery and finishes.

America’s Top Hardwood Choices for Fine Furniture

The American Hardwood Information Center lists 23 different species of American hardwoods including alder, ash, aspen, basswood, beech, cottonwood, hickory, sassafras and elm.  The following are time tested favorites for American made hardwood furniture.

American Black Cherry

Cherry wood is a reddish brown hardwood with a smooth, fine grain.  It’s perhaps the most prized furniture hardwood in America. People are often surprised to learn that natural cherry wood furniture changes colors over time– quite a bit actually. It starts out as a light-toned wood and darkens as it is exposed to light.

Top Quality Hardwoods include American Cherry, Maple, Walnut, Oak
These top quality hardwoods are favorites in the world of American made furniture: Cherry, Maple, Walnut and Oak.

Sugar or Hard Maple

Sugar Maple Wood (aka: hard maple) is usually light reddish brown in the center or heartwood but sometimes considerably darker (dark maple is often mistaken for cherry wood). Maple sapwood is typically white with a slight reddish-brown tinge. Maple is heavy, strong, stiff, hard, and resistant to shock.  It has a fine, uniform texture with generally straight grain, but variations such as curly, wavy, rippled, birdseye, tiger, flame or fiddleback grain occur and are often selected for specialty custom artisan furniture.

Oak

Oak has been the wood of choice for many of America’s most beloved mission and craftsman-style furniture makers, like Gustav Stickley, Greene and Greene and Frank Lloyd Wright.  Oak is a solid, sturdy and very durable hardwood with generally uniform coarse texture and prominent rays in the grain.  Oak wood may darken slightly over time, taking on more amber tones however the change is very subtle, unlike the significant color change with cherry wood.

Black walnut is North America's only chocolate brown hardwood
This hardwood bed, night stand and chest set is made of black walnut wood.  Black walnut is North America’s only chocolate brown hardwood.  It’s relatively rare and typically carries a 20-40% price premium.

American Black Walnut

Black walnut wood is the only dark North American wood. It’s prized by woodworkers for it’s strength, grain and color which is a rich chocolate brown– with occasional purple tones. There are over 20 species of walnut trees but it is the Eastern Black Walnut tree (aka: American Walnut) that is native to North America and is used for our American made walnut furniture.

If real top quality American hardwoods are important to you, be aware that imposters are everywhere.  Much of the “maple”, “walnut”, “oak” and “real cherry furniture” on the market today is actually made from cheaper woods like rubberwood, poplar, alder or other fast-growing wood alternatives.  They are often illegally clear-cut from the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests, then bleached, texturized and stained to look like American hardwoods. When considering a purchase of wood furniture from large  “American furniture companies” like Bassett, Broyhill, Lane, Lazy Boy, Kincaid, Ethan Allan, Thomasville, Pennsylvania House, Drexel, Heritage, American Drew and Pottery Barn– be sure to ask what the wood species is and where it was grown.  You may be surprised by the response.

If you’re in the market for solid hardwood furniture, what’s your favorite wood?  Let us know on Facebook or in the comments section below.

Next up: Quality Hardwood Furniture Buyers Guide, Part II: all about fine furniture finishes, joinery & solid wood vs veneers.

 

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

We’re expanding our selection of handcrafted beds, and we’re excited to reveal two additions to the Brandon Collection. ‘Brandon’ is one of our most popular collections. It’s lines and edges are simple and smooth, making it a perfectly versatile collection for any style home. The original Brandon bed has a classic transitional style–but our two new beds have more detailed features, adding an eclectic charm to this simply beautiful collection.

Highlighting our New Vermont Made Spindle Beds:

Vermont Made Spindle Beds

1. Brandon Cherry Wishbone Bed

Vermont Made Spindle Beds
Our Brandon Wishbone bed is defined by its unique spindle headboard design. Sweeping curved lines paired with a low footboard platform design set this bed apart from other spindle beds. This artfully designed piece is hand-crafted in Vermont from American Black Cherry.

2. Brandon Cherry Spindle Bed

Vermont Made Spindle Beds
The Brandon Cherry Spindle Bed is a beautiful representation of traditional Vermont Style craftsmanship. It’s clean lines and gentle curves complement the sweeping spindle style head and footboard. This piece makes the perfect centerpiece to any bedroom.

What do you think of our new handcrafted, Vermont made spindle beds? Would you add them to your bedroom? Check out the rest of the Brandon collection & let us know what you think in the comments section. Or send us a tweet!

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Maple and Walnut Wood Furniture | 2 Tone Combinations
This modern 2 tone combination of walnut and maple wood furniture is offered in the SoHo collection.  Made by Copeland Furniture, SoHo provides many options for customizing the combination of light maple and dark walnut wood tones.

Maple furniture is making a comeback!  For many years, cherry has been our customers’ favorite hardwood but in 2014 we’re seeing that maple wood is giving cherry a run for the money.  This is a welcome trend for those of us in the Vermont forestry community since maple is a hardwood that grows extremely well in the Green Mountain state (indeed maple is the Vermont state tree).  It’s sustainably harvested nearby, making it a great choice for eco-friendly furniture.

Although maple furniture is beautiful on it’s own, many customers are dressing it up with walnut or cherry wood accents.  One example of this design is in Copeland Furniture’s Modern SoHo bedroom furniture collection.  The picture above shows SoHo in maple and walnut wood but it is made to order and can also be customized in all maple wood.

Maple Furniture with Walnut Wood Accents
This Classic Shaker huntboard was customized in light maple wood with a dark walnut top and walnut drawer pulls.  Thanks to Margot G in Knoxville, TN for sending us her photo!

Nearly all of our furniture at Vermont Woods Studios can be customized in maple wood, regardless of the wood it’s shown in on our website.  This photo was sent to us by Margot G in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Margo created her own unique version of our Classic Shaker Hunt Board by choosing maple wood (rather than cherry) and accenting it with a walnut top and walnut drawer pulls.  It’s beautiful, don’t you think?

Astrid furniture is made in Vermont by Copeland Furniture
Astrid modern bedroom furniture is available in maple wood (as shown) as well as cherry and walnut.  It’s hand made in Vermont by Copeland Furniture.

Another example of modern maple furniture is the Astrid bedroom furniture collection (shown above).  Astrid is dramatic and sophisticated.  It’s been a favorite of contemporary urban dwellers from Manhattan to Los Angeles.

Check out our website for more examples of modern maple furniture.  Use the drop-down menus to customize your wood choices online.  If you don’t see exactly what you want, give us a call and we’ll talk about further customization.  It’s more affordable than you might think.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Beds with slanted headboards are a book lovers dream! They provide maximum comfort as the naturally smooth headboard aligns with the curve of your back (or just gives you enough room to put your pillow against it and really relax)! While most of our Vermont made beds are made with traditional headboards, we have a couple of beautiful pieces that feature this headboard style. If you really love a bed but wish it could have a slanted headboard, contact one of our fine furniture experts and they will let you know your options for a custom furniture piece!

Here are 3 of our favorite beds with Slanted Headboards

1) Custom Incline Storage Bed

Custom Bed with Slanted Headboard
This beautiful cherry storage bed* is a customized version of our Modern Incline Bed and our Cherry Moon Dressers. It’s handcrafted in a small workshop in Montpelier, VT using solid cherry wood with black walnut accents, all coated with a hand-rubbed, natural linseed oil finish. This piece is sold, but you can contact one of our friendly sales members if you’d love one like it!

 2. Modern Incline Bed

Modern Incline Bed
This simple, high-end, solid wood Modern Incline Bed features an inclined headboard for supreme comfort. The subtle angle (10%) of this headboard makes reading or watching TV in bed more comfy and ergonomic. Expert craftsmanship. Built to last for generations. Designed as an ultra comfortable platform bed so there is no need for a box spring.

 3.  Classic Sleigh Bed

Classic Sleigh Bed
The elegance of this solid wood, Classic Sleigh Bed adds sophistication and charm to your upscale bedroom. Expert craftsmanship and Vermont-made quality ensure that you can count on this heirloom for generations to come.

 

| This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios.  Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains. |

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.