What To Look Out for When Purchasing Antique Dining Tables & Case Pieces
When purchasing fine furniture for your home, it’s important to know what you’re getting and that what you are paying for is worth the money. Today’s furniture market is littered with misrepresentation, ambiguous terminology, and even deceit in some cases. Given these unfortunate facts, understanding what to look out for when purchasing furniture is more relevant than ever before. You want to feel confident with your purchase and happy that you have a new piece of furniture without any regret or buyer’s remorse. So, I’ve come up with a few pointers to keep in mind to help guide you in your search for quality furniture.
The construction of a piece is the most important thing to inspect. Ideally, the piece should be made from solid wood with veneer over top. It is a common misnomer that veneer is a poor substitute for solid wood. But in truth, veneer is wood that is simply thinly cut. What’s more is that veneer is necessary to achieve the different combinations of banding in a table or a flamed mahogany drawer face as, for instance, mahogany, satinwood, and burled walnut do not all exist together in nature. They are all different woods from different trees. Here is one of our antique dining tables with a solid maple core with mahogany veneer over top.
In a case piece, you also want to look for a solid wood core construction with veneer over top. While in a case piece, as opposed to a dining table, it is more difficult to check the wood core without cutting it in half, there are a still a few tell-tale signs of a well-made piece. First, look at the drawers, as they can reveal a lot about the quality of construction. In a well-made piece, the drawers should be built from solid wood with a solid wood or at least a plywood bottom panel. The joinery also speaks to how the piece will last and was made. The best type of drawer construction is English dovetail joinery, where pieces of wood are interlocked to form a strong bond that is known for its resistance to being pulled apart (tensile strength). Here is an example of dovetail joinery from one of our pieces:
In contrast, a poorly made drawer does not have dovetail joinery but rather is made with staples or nails. For instance, this is a drawer that you should stay away from (if you are looking for quality):
The track system that the drawer uses to slide in and out is also a sign of the quality of the piece. For instance, wooden sliders are a great mark of a well-made piece. They won’t easily break or warp and ensure that your drawers will glide in and out effortlessly. Here are some wooden sliders in one of our pieces:
Another thing to look for is dust protectors behind the drawers. Their main job is to stop dust from the drawers being constantly opened and closed going into the rest of the piece. Here is an example:
Lastly, look for all joints to be either connected with quality joinery or with wood glue. Some poorly made pieces uses caulking to join pieces of wood together and this is an automatic sign that it is not worth buying.
Stay tuned for my next post, when we discuss what to look for when buying chairs, analyzing a good finish, and what is a well-done wood carving.