In the past 10 days we’ve been asked to repair 3 tables each made by OTHER timber furniture makers! These furniture makers clearly don’t know what they are doing. Cracked tabletops, broken joints or dodgy finishes are the main problems. We’re unable to repair some tables whilst some we virtually start all over thus making it both costly and frustrating for the table owner. Unable to be repaired in the home, freight costs are incurred and it’s inconvenient not having your table for up to 10 days.
Ten years ago there were far few craftsmen in Melbourne making premium quality, timber, custom made furniture. When establishing our business, over 20 years ago, we personally respected furniture makers Nicholas Dattner, Lee Kidman and Anton Gerner. All highly skilled in their craft of furniture making using recycled native Australian timber.
Over the last few years there’s been an explosion in small business entering the timber furniture-making arena reflecting a new generation of skilled and talented makers. We’re in awe of stunning designs, innovative new techniques and quality of workmanship practiced by a number of relatively new furniture makers. Unfortunately however there are a worrying number of business owners who aren’t qualified and have very little knowledge of timber and how to work with it. Hobby wood workers and/or tradesmen who aren’t really qualified or experienced when it comes to working with solid timber or the techniques required in manufacturing premium timber furniture.
Purchasing a piece of timber furniture is a financial and emotional investment requiring research and time so I’ve put together a list of things to consider.
- Design and décor you’re trying to match.
- Function i.e., what will it be used for.
- Timber choice.
- Timber finish
To assist in your decision you may need the help of an experienced furniture maker with vast knowledge of timber and its’ use in the manufacture of timber furniture. When visiting various makers factories or showrooms always ask them or their staff the following questions and if they can’t answer some of these questions ask them to get back to you with the details.
Who’s making my table?
Credentials are always important. What’s their trade qualifications or how much experience do they have?
Is my table Australian made?
This is an important question because many overseas manufacturers use sub-standard workmanship and materials. Please support Australian Made. Christian and I feel very strongly about this. Many consumers are unaware that timber used in timber furniture must be acclimatised to Australia’s climate because timber can possess too little or too much moisture causing the timber to move and potentially damage furniture.
Where has the timber been sourced?
Has the timber been ethically sourced? Jungles and animal habitats can be destroyed by poor timber management practices in some countries. Check for F.S.C. (Forest Stewardship Council) endorsement. We source some of our timber from farms and demolished old buildings allowing us to share its’ history with you.
What kind of warranty is your piece supported by?
Clarify this and read the fine print.
Can you view your timber prior to its use?
Timber is a natural product shaped by nature and the elements. There can be great variation in colour, grain, texture and natural characteristics. Do you prefer lots of grain or minimal timber feature? Always clarify this when ordering your piece.
With regard to the structural integrity of your table, ask the following questions:
- Timber Joints. Do you use mortise and tenons to join your timber pieces? The boards on a tabletop should always be joined using timber “biscuits”. The quality of these biscuits can also vary. They must be able to expand and contract with the timber’s natural seasonal movements.
- Glue. Some glue is far superior to others allowing a degree of flexibility thus allowing the timber to move seasonally preventing cracking and superior strength withstanding great strain.
- Hardware. Screws for timber feature a different type of thread and point than those developed for metals, so they grip better and last longer in rot-prone environments. Screws are available in many materials and coatings. For example outdoor tables should always have galvanized screws. Teak furniture stainless steel is best. Zink screws are rust resistant however if the coating is damaged it will rust.
- Drawer runners vary greatly in quality and use. We recommend Blum because of quality, options and warranty. Drawers are important to research because solid hardwood weighs more than Plywood or Pine so check the maximum weight the drawer runner can hold. Fully extendable drawer runners give enhanced access to the entire drawer. Soft close drawer runners prevent fingers being slammed. Push catch drawer runners mean no need for handles (for aesthetics or practicality).
- Finish. There are many different finishes available when sealing the timber on your furniture. That’s a whole Blog on it’s own! (I plan to do in the next few weeks). In the meantime the coating on your solid timber furniture is dictated by practicality e.g., tabletops need to be durable protected from direct sunlight and pooling water and aesthetics e.g., you may be designing for a certain interior design. Durability varies greatly amongst polyurethanes, lacquers, oils and shellacs. Clear coating showing the timber’s natural colour and gloss levels can affect the light dispersion of the natural grain. Staining is great if you would like to colour your timber but remember if badly scratched it will need to be completely sanded back and re-stained and coated to repair.
I’ve put together a downloadable handy checklist.
So if you are in the market for a piece/pieces of custom made, solid timber furniture there’s quite a lot to consider. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions because it could save you a whole lot of disappointment and stress in the long run making your purchase a far more enjoyable experience.