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Shopping Tips:
Case Goods

Planning a major furniture purchase after years of “making do” with family hand-me-downs and flea market bargains? The following tips are worth noting by both novice and seasoned furniture shoppers.

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Judging the Case Goods
Furniture designed to provide storage space, or for display, is called case goods. Usually made of wood or metal, case goods comprise bedroom and dining room furniture – excluding upholstered pieces – as well as desks, bookcases and chests.

There are several factors that determine the overall quality of case goods:

  • Wood pieces should usually be joined in either a mortise and tenon (one piece fits into a pocket on the other) or a dovetail (the pieces fit together like meshing gears). The best joinery is also glued, locking the pieces together. Blocks glued and screwed into corners create extra stability.
  • Drawers should fit well, glide easily on heavy-duty glide rails; they shouldn’t creak or wobble excessively from side to side.
  • The insides of drawers should be smoothly sanded with panels between drawers blocking dust and other material.

The Natural Wonders of Maple
Finely textured with a natural luster, maple is a favorite furniture hardwood. This creamy white to light reddish brown wood has been used since the first furniture was constructed in the U.S. during Colonial times. Moreover, early settlers used maple for crafting personal items like hatboxes and sewing kits. Maple is also a preferred wood for flooring, wooden kitchenware (such as bowls and cutting boards) and many musical instruments.

Finishing Touches
Solid woods, including maple, cherry, mahogany and oak, offer stability to furniture and can be easily refinished. A manufacturer’s hang tag indicating solid wood construction means that only 100 percent solid wood was used.

By definition, a veneer is a thin layer of wood, chosen for beauty and character, then glued or bonded to another wood surface. It’s not a substitute for solid wood; instead, veneers add to the beauty of the finished piece. Veneering makes it possible to match fine grain patterns and insert beautiful inlay designs that are not available in solid wood. Veneering is a fine craft that has been practiced for centuries, and can be seen on intricately designed antique pieces.

Better-quality furniture often combines solid wood, veneers and other materials. Solid wood gives frames, legs and other supporting components durability. The veneer adds not only beauty but strength: it helps prevent warping and splitting that sometimes occurs when solid wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity.

Case Good Terms
Learn the language of home furnishings by reviewing the phrases below:

  1. Bachelor chest: A small, low chest that originated in the 18th century
  2. Buffet: A sideboard with no hutch or storage cabinet on top
  3. Commode: A small, low chest with door or drawers
  4. Console: A small table, often with curved legs, designed to set against a wall
  5. Hutch: An enclosed cupboard with shelves resting on a solid base
  6. Pedestal table: A table supported by a single, center base
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