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Information on Wooden Furniture

What You Should Know About Buying Wood Furniture

Our hand-crafted furniture collection features thousands of wood furniture offerings for every single room of your house, in virtually any decor you can imagine. You can browse our many styles wood furnishings by type of furniture or by brand, such as Bernhardt, Century Furniture, Hickory White, Lexington, and Hooker Furniture, to name a few.

Furniture Terms Part I (Courtesy of Fine Furniture Design)

AcanthusAcanthus

A type of leaf used as a carving motif since ancient times. Acanthus leaves have a curved shape and somewhat ruffled edges making it very decorative.

Hard woodHardwoods

Hardwoods come from deciduous trees - those that lose their leaves once a year. Some examples of hardwoods are oak, maple, cherry and sycamore.

Applied Carving

Pieces of solid wood that have been hand-carved or shaped by machine and glued onto a piece of furniture. Resin/plastic shapes are sometimes used as imitations for applied carving.

Honed edge

A polished, curved shaped edge on a stone top

armoireArmoire

Another name for a tall wardrobe with doors, and sometimes a few drawers that is used to store clothing. If the inside is fitted for electronics, it is an entertainment center. Another name for an armoire is a clothes press.

Incised CarvingIncised carving

Carving technique that cuts into wood - often in geometric shapes. This type of carving is gouged or chipped out to leave an interior design.

AshAsh

Light, creamy-colored hardwood that sometimes has a wavy or curly grain pattern. Ash burl has a more pronounced circular and wavy grain pattern and is cut from the tree stump or where limbs intersect the trunk.

Kiln Drying

A process by which pieces of lumber are dried in a large (often room-sized) oven to remove some of the moisture present in freshly cut wood. Kiln drying balances the moisture in wood so that it is suitable for manufacturing and finishing.

Back panel

The piece of wood that covers the back of a case piece. The best back panels are wood, and are affixed to the back of the furniture with screws. Back panels also add to the structural integrity of a piece of furniture by holding the sides and back in alignment.

Lacquer

Clear, cellulose-based finish used as the top coating on furniture

Ball & ClawBall & Claw

A type of carving used as the foot of a chair, table or small chest that looks like a sphere grasped by a bird's foot. The original inspiration for this carving is Chinese and is said to resemble a dragon's talons clutching a pearl.

LotusLotus

An ornamental flower with large, curved petals used as inspiration for carving. It is Egyptian in origin.

BailBail

The loop or the U-shaped part that the fingers grasp on the hardware pull on a piece of furniture.

MarquetryMarquetry

Contrasting colors of veneer used to create a picture or embellishment with straight and curved lines. Flowers, shells and intricate, curved shapes are examples of marquetry.

BandingBanding

Decorative veneer edging on case goods that usually has its grain running perpendicular to the edge of the piece of furniture. Banding also refers to layers of veneer inside a veneered piece between the core and the face veneer.

MDFMDF - Medium Density Fiberboard

Manufactured material made from compressed wood fibers and glue that is often used as a core for veneered products. MDF has no grain, which makes it an excellent core material because it does not expand or shrink. MDF is also heavier and denser than solid wood since it is made from compressed wood fibers.

beadBead

This molding is small in size and is a round dowel shape cut in half lengthwise. It is often used to frame drawers or doors with a decorative edge.

MiteredMitered

A 45-degree angle cut in two straight pieces of wood allowing them to form right angles as they join. A miter joins the corners of a mirror.

Beveled edgeBeveled edge

Similar to a chamfer, a beveled edge slopes from thick to thin and is often used as a shape for the edge of a mirror.

MoldingsMoldings

Decorative strips of wood, sometimes carved, that frame doors, drawers, tops, sides and fronts of some case pieces.

BombéBombé

Convex sides and front on a chest that are shaped in a curved fashion. The sides of a bombé chest bulge in a decorative way.

Mortise & TenonMortise & Tenon

A type of furniture construction joinery where a large rectangular tab of wood (tenon) fits into a slot that is the same shape (mortise).

Bow frontBow front

Convex, elliptical shaping on just the front of a chest or case piece

Ogee EdgeOgee Edge

A shape (also known as a profile) made from two S curves that is often used for moldings or feet on furniture pieces.

Bracket FootBracket Foot

A two-sided foot where the sides meets at a right angle and are shaped like a bracket at the open end

OverlaysOverlays

Carved pieces of wood applied to a case piece before finishing. (Faux or imitation overlays are made from resin or plastic)

Brass

Copper & zinc alloy that is stronger than copper alone, and more golden in color than copper.

Patina

The aged look that a wood finish or leather develops when used over a period of time. Fine finishes can give the look of patina without the wear of aging.

Bronze

Copper & tin alloy sometimes used as a decorative element on furniture.

PlyPly

A thin (usually 1/16") slice of wood used for veneering. In veneering the core counts as one ply and each layer of veneer is added to the count. i.e. a 5-ply veneer has a core and 2 plys on each side of the core.

Bun footBun foot

Circular shaped carved foot that has the appearance of being flatted a little so that it looks more like a bun - or the shape of a jelly-filled doughnut.

Pocket doorsPocket doors

Door construction often used in entertainment centers when outer doors fold and slide back into the cabinet so that they are hidden from view.

BurlBurl

Growths on a tree that produce small amounts of beautifully grained wood or stumps and areas of the tree where limbs intersect with the trunk and grains move in many directions. Burl is prized as a decorative veneer.

PostPost

Column of wood, often shaped and carved, used on the corners of a bed, or as a decorative element on a case piece.

CapitalCapital

The top of a column that is often decorated with a carved scroll or other ornamental element.

Primavera

Light-colored wood with pink and yellow tones that is often used as a decorative veneer or for edge banding.

Case goods

Originally used as a term for wood furniture that offered storage, case goods now refers to virtually any furniture not used as a seat or chair.

Profile

The cross-section shape of a piece of molding or a turning.

Cathedral

Shape of the wood grain in some straight cut veneers that has the appearance of an oval arc.

Quarter-sawnQuarter-sawn

A method for slicing wood in which the log is cut lengthwise in quarters. These quarters may be sliced again into quarter-sawn plys of veneer, by cutting lengthwise slices down the straight edge of a quarter.

ChamferChamfer

A shaped, sloped edge.

Racking

A twisting, wobbly motion made by a piece of furniture that is not cut and assembled well. Structural integrity is compromised, allowing the furniture to shake when moved.

Chest on chestChest on chest

A storage piece that has two sections placed on top of one another - and each section has the appearance of a chest of drawers.

RailsRails

The horizontal wood pieces of a cabinet, or the side pieces that join the headboard and footboard of a bed.

Corner Blocks Corner Blocks

Triangular shaped pieces affixed to the bottom corners of drawers and other case pieces for strength and reinforcement.

ReedingReeding

Strips of side by side, convex, half-circular shaping - often on the post of a bed. The opposite of fluting.

Grain

The pattern of wood fibers in a piece of wood. Some grains are straight and fibers stand close together. Others are circular, curved, wavy or other shapes.

Relief CarvingRelief Carving

A type of detailed carving in solid wood, where the background of the carving is removed leaving a raised design. (Sometimes an overlay looks like relief carving, but the overlay will have a point of demarcation between the overlay and the background wood)

Cross bandingCross banding

Borders of veneer often used as a decorative edge, where the grain of the veneer is perpendicular to the edge it decorates.

Season Cracks

Openings that appear within the grain of solid wood pieces that have been improperly dried before manufacturing or that have been subjected to changing heat and humidity conditions. Season cracks often diminish when furniture is in warmer and more humid surroundings

DovetailsDovetails

A type of furniture construction joinery where triangular shaped edges fit together in an interlocking pattern.

Sleigh bedSleigh bed

The headboard and footboard of a sleigh bed have a curved, scrolled shape that looks like an old-fashioned, horse-drawn sleigh.

DowelingDoweling

A type of furniture construction joinery where short pieces of rounded dowels are glued into circular holes on either sides of the wood to be joined.

Slipper footSlipper foot

Shaped foot on a bed, table or case piece that resembles the curved, pointed toe of a lady's shoe, and its sole.

Drawer Guides

Strips of convex and concave shaped wood strips that fit together smoothly in a track. The convex shape is affixed to the bottom of a drawer and the concave strip is fastened to the chest or dresser. The guide keeps the drawer centered and allows it to be opened and closed smoothly.

Soft woodsSoft woods

Another term for wood from evergreen trees - pine, fir, cedar.

Dust proofingDust proofing

Pieces of wood affixed between drawers in a dresser or chest that protect items in drawers from dust and critters. Wooden dust proofing is the best quality, and it contributes an additional measure of structural integrity to a piece of furniture.

Structural integrity

Building furniture with materials, design, joinery and glues that make the furniture strong and substantial. Structural integrity is a lot like the "belt and suspender" approach to wearing pants.

Ebony

A very hard and dense wood with jet-black coloration that is often used as a slim line in veneer or marquetry patterns.

Tapered legTapered leg

A leg that becomes slimmer as it reaches the floor.

Emperadora marble

Hard, crystalline limestone with brown, black and white colorations and dramatic vein patterns. Polished to a high sheen for use as a top for a chest or dresser.

Tongue & GrooveTongue & Groove

A type of furniture construction joinery where a long convex piece with a curved shape to its edge (tongue) slides into a groove shaped to fit. This joinery is often used in hardwood floors too.

End panelsEnd panels

The sides of a chest, dresser or armoire

TraditionalTraditional

Historic pieces of furniture and well-known design elements are the inspiration for traditional furniture. Complex carvings, moldings and bold shaping on case pieces are indicative of the traditional style as are fancy face veneers, polished finishes and embellished hardware.

Face veneerFace veneer

The outermost piece of veneer seen on the exterior of a veneered piece of furniture.

Transitional

Clean lines of Contemporary furniture softened with shaping and carving elements of more traditional furniture are indicative of transitional design. Wood colorations tend to be lighter colors with satin rather than high sheen finishes.

Fan veneerFan veneer

Veneer cut in wedges or triangular shapes resembling an open fan.

Travertine

Stone with a creamy beige coloration often used for decorative tops to chests and dressers.

Fancy Face Veneers

A face veneer that has a special grain pattern or decorative design inlaid in it.

TrussTruss

A bracket that gives additional support to two pieces of wood being joined in a perpendicular fashion. A truss system used in bed construction holds multi-ply slats on edge and secures them to the bed frame for strength and structural integrity.

FrameFrame

A square or rectangular border for end panels on a cabinet, armoire or chest. A frame is also the structure that holds the glass in a mirror or the pieces that hold the mattress and box springs on a bed. Sometimes the skeleton of a case piece is referred to as a frame.

TurningTurning

Shaping a three - dimensional piece of wood by rotating it while cutting away the edges with sharp blades. The shape of a turning is referred to as its profile and is usually curved in convex and concave ways. Turned pieces are used for bed posters, legs of case pieces, spindles of chairs and other pieces that require a rounded shape.

Fiberboard (MDF)Fiberboard (MDF)

Medium density fiberboard is comprised of small wood pieces glued and pressed into a flat board. MDF has no grain and is a strong and stable core for veneered panels and tabletops.

VeneerVeneer

A thin slice of wood, often with a fancy or decorative grain pattern used to decorate the outside of furniture.

Flitch

A log cut into thin (1/16") slices for veneers. A sheaf of veneer slices or an entire log in slices is referred to a flitch of veneer.

 

Furniture Terms Part II (Courtesy of Bernhardt Furniture)

Veneer Characteristics

Veneers have long been used in fine furniture making and are stronger and more durable than solid wood. They resist shrinking, swelling, warping, and cracking due to humidity and other environmental changes.

Veneer Selection

Premier woods are hand-selected and matched in color and wood grain to give a consistent look to each piece while enhancing the natural beauty of the wood grain. Unusual veneers and “fancy face” patterns are often used to add decorative detail.

Finish Steps

An extensive, multi-step finish process gives each piece of furniture depth, accentuating the wood grain pattern and producing a range of finish looks from a high sheen to a natural “aged” appearance.

Mortise & Tenon Cabinetry Details

Traditional mortise and tenon construction is used to securely fasten pieces of wood, creating a stronger joint for lasting stability.

Door & Drawer Fit

Doors and drawers are constructed with a precise, tight fit to prevent gaps and sagging, enhancing their appearance and structural strength.

Table Locks & Guides

Hidden metal locks are used to reduce gaps on tables with leaves, giving the table a clean, smooth appearance and ensuring durability over time. Premium quality table glides are used to secure the piece, reducing warping and sagging and resulting in a sturdy table frame.

Corner Blocks

Table legs are constructed with strong corner blocks glued and screwed with lag bolts, increasing the overall strength and rigidity of each leg.

Drawer Construction Materials & Finish

All wood sides and backs with veneer bottoms are used to create a durable drawer that is less likely to warp over time and humidity changes and to produce a smoother, more consistent drawer function. Each drawer bottom is stained and sealed, creating a smooth interior that is less likely to snap or damage clothes.

Stop Blocks

Wooden blocks are nailed and glued behind each drawer to ensure that the drawer stops solidly and in the proper position when closed.

Dovetails

English dovetail construction is featured in the front and back of each drawer (French dovetail is incorporated where design indicates) to deliver a durable drawer box that will remain solid over time.

Drawer Stops

Wooden stop pins are provided for each drawer with a silver tray to prevent the drawer from falling out of the case when pulled open.

Drawer Box

A full-size drawer box is used to offer increased drawer volume and maximum storage capacity. Full-size wooden guides are also used to support more cubic feet of storage.

Silver Trays

A silver tray with a tarnish-resistant cloth cover is custom fitted into a drawer in select dining room pieces to provide a protective, convenient space to store silverware.

Hardware Materials

Heavy duty solid metals are used to create hardware that adds beauty and durability while reducing rattling, rusting, and breakage.

Custom Design & Finish

Each collection has its own signature hardware that is custom-designed and finished using a multi-step process, adding distinction and a rich appearance to each piece.

Techniques

A range of methods such as the ancient Egyptian lost wax casting, die-casting or sand casing are used to create hardware with unique shapes, subtle markings and jewel-like details.

Primary Wood Species

Species

Characteristics

Alder

Western alder is a fine-grained hardwood similar to cherry, birch and maple. It has a density or hardness comparable to Appalachian soft maple

AD Maple

Grade of Maple defined as being free of worm holes and surface defects

American White Ash

Best match to oak, a little wilder grain

Aromatic Red Cedar

North American wood with aromatic smell. Used in some applications as deterrent to insects and moths for clothing storage as deterrent to insects and moths for clothing storage.

Caribbean Pine

Harder than US pine; very few knots

Cherry

Fine wood grain with character

China Oak

a good substitute for US oak

Chinese Ash

Chinese substitute for American Ash

Chinese Birch

European Birch While plain, white birch is known for its creamy, white-to-tan color and faint grain, masur birch is the name for wood that has been affected by insects.

Hackberry

Similar specie as Ash and Elm w/ some color variation

Lenga

South American substitute for Cherry (called Fireland Cherry)

Linden

Chinese hardwood similar to White Poplar/Aspen/Cottonwood

Mahogany

Beautiful hardwood with distinctive wood grain. Has a medium to coarse texture with open pores. The grain can be straight, irregular, or interlocked.

Mango

Has a fine to medium texture, with straight grain though the grain can also be interlocked and/or figured. Curly and spalted Mango is frequently seen.

ND Maple

Grade of Maple defined as having worm holes considered as no defect

Poplar

Universal hardwood known for ease of use in a variety of woodworking applications

Red Oak

North American Hardwood. Similar to White Oak but with a pinkish cast and more open grain characteristic.

Russian Birch

Russian substitute for ND Maple w/ less surface defects

South American Taeda/Eliotis

Harder than US pine with smaller more frequent sound knots

Sunkai

Indonesian lumber similar to Oak

White Oak

North American hardwood