We live in a time where taking care of our planet has been more broadly brought to the public conscience. I think, in the past, it has been taken for granted that our earth will always sustain life as we know it. Well, this theory has changed and a new earth conscience people have appeared. The earth is an ever-changing entity and we need to nurture and protect the natural resources that supply us with all we need to survive and thrive.
Trees rank right up there at the top of the ladder. Trees are not only beautiful, but they supply us with shade, they help improve air quality, preserve soil, support wildlife and most of all, they take in Carbon Dioxide and produce the Oxygen we breathe.
So, I don’t know about you but that makes me want to plant some trees. Actually, that makes me want to HUG a tree. Does that make me a “TREE HUGGER”?
I am bringing up the importance of trees in order to talk about the importance of trees used in the production of furniture. Here at Doerr, we are of the belief that a Solid wood or All wood piece of furniture is a quality piece of furniture. With that said, we do not support the clear cutting of our forests. We support vendors that sustainably source their lumber. We support the responsible harvesting of trees with a replenishment program. Several of our vendors not only source their lumber very close to home, but they also plant a tree for every tree harvested.
There are basically 3 categories of wood furniture in my mind. They are:
- Solid wood
- All wood
- Other- MDF or fiberboard and many others
Solid wood furniture is exactly what it sounds like. Furniture that is created from solid planks of wood that are joined by either dowelling, screwing, gluing, dovetailing or Mortise & Tendon.
You can identify a solid piece of furniture by looking at the edge or the ends. If you see the rings of a tree,
you can be sure it is a solid piece. You can also look at the grain on a tabletop, then get underneath to see if the same grain pattern is also on the bottom. OK, if your knees are like mine, do yourself a favor and send the kids on this mission.
Solid wood has several advantages-
- Inert strength
- Beauty in the grain
- Can be easily repaired
- Can be sanded and refinished
There are a few disadvantages that I feel I need to mention-
- Impacted by dry heat and moisture. Solid wood will expand and contract with the amount of moisture (humidity) in the air. This makes wood expand which may make joints tighten up a bit. In very dry heat situations the wood will shrink. This may cause an inset panel to move where you will see a bit of the unfinished panel below.
- Solid wood designs tend to be on the cleaner or more simple line design. They have stopped doing all of the hand carvings of the past.
The next category is All Wood. With all wood, it can be a combination of solid, veneer, laminated or engineered wood. Most people cringe when the word VENEER is said, well I am here to tell you that VENEER is not a dirty word. Veneers and laminated woods are actually great for furniture. Here is why.
- Items made from Plywood tend to be more stable. They will not shrink or expand like in a solid wood piece. The reason is this:
- Plywood is several layers of thin planks of wood layered on top of one another at a 45-degree angle. Thin layers of commercial grade glue are applied in between each layer and then the piece is put under a tremendous amount of pressure to join them together. By having the layers at the 45 degree angle the layers will not move and shift. Plywood comes in different sizes, meaning 5 ply, 7 ply or sometimes even 13 ply.
- Veneers- After you have a base made from ply, you can now apply a beautiful VENEER. A veneer is a thin cut of solid wood, usually consisting of the most beautiful cuts of the wood. These thin layers are then glued to the stable foundation of the ply and finished. By using veneers manufactures can play with different patterns, cuts and designs when applying the veneer. This will create some very beautiful and fanciful pieces of furniture. The important thing to remember is that under every veneer needs to be a good base material.
MDF, Fiberboard and other
There is a lot of imitation wood product on the market today. Each type touting why it is better. The kinds of wood products that I mentioned above have a place, but not necessarily in the GOOD furniture category. MDF and its relatives are products that combine a fiber or wood pulp mixed with other additives (too many to talk about) and a glue substance. These ingredients are then pressed together to form a board. This board can sometimes be very heavy due to some of the stuff they mix in. In order to make furniture out of this product, there is usually a photo of wood grain applied on top to give the appearance of wood. It is applied like wallpaper. Some of the main disadvantages of this type of product are:
- Peeling- If the edge of the applied paper starts to peel away you will be left with patches of fiberboard showing.
- Moisture- Living in New Orleans and all around the south, we are very familiar with what can happen if moisture gets to a piece of MDF or Fiberboard. Can I say EXPANDS and DEGRADES into small pieces.
- Can be easily split and damaged.
- This type of product is used because it is inexpensive.
In closing, I hope this little look into wood helps you while you are out shopping for a beautiful new addition to your home. Think about what you want out of your wood furniture. Is this a temporary situation or is this an investment in your home and something that will be able to be handed down through the years.
Trees are giving their lives for us to have beautiful home furnishings. Let’s make every one of their lives count. Let’s also all continue to be aware of our role as custodians of our planet and support the sustainable sourcing of our lumber. Let’s all go hug a tree today!