Wooden Furniture Materials

Wooden furniture has wildly varying prices, and many times it’s due to several factors, the material, way it’s put together and the finish. Let’s take a look at some of the materials, plywood vs real lumber, and see how they effect cost.

Wood is usually (but not always) the most expensive material for furniture. It’s been used for furniture for thousands of years, but why is it so expensive? Because the type of trees used to make lumber for furniture take years to grow. Even fast growing trees used for construction take 20 years to reach a size where they can be used. Then the lumber must be harvested and processed which is a labor intensive proposition. Another thing that drives up price is waste, cutting a square board from the round log, is inherently wasteful. There are also certain ways of cutting perpendicular to the grain called quartersawing that make even less of the wood useful. Quartersawing is often used in lumber for furniture because it results in a a tight grain pattern that is less succeptible to warping.

Plywood is made of thin sheets of wood glued together with alternating grain. This alternating grain makes the plywood stable and less likely to react to weather changes – that means less shrinking or warping. Because the plywood is peeled of the log in one large sheet more of the log is used. Less waste means cheaper prices. The inner cores of plywood can be made of cheaper, lower quality wood. Then the outer ply can use top quality wood. In fact some of the best logs are used for plywood, because more quality product can be produced from one tree.

The third type of materials can be grouped together, they’re generally wood fibers or chips pressed together with glue. MDF is the highest quality of this type of product, it’s heavy, cuts cleanly, and has a smooth surface suitable for painting. On the lower end is chipboard, it’s heavy but not particularly strong, and has to be covered by some sort of laminate to make a presentable surface. It’s also succeptible to water damage, if the surface laminate is compromised, yet it’s widely used in bathroom and kitchen furniture.

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