I have customers ask me, ” Is this really real wood in your solid oak furniture?” I assure them that it is. So, what is ‘real wood’? To answer that question we must start with the basics. Real wood furniture starts with actual lumber!
Let me share how I buy and process my lumber so that you can use this knowledge as you are looking at your solid oak furniture provider.
Over the past couple decades I have purchased lumber from many, many mills in Wisconsin. I have settled on Endeavor Hardwoods from Lyndon Station. They have given me the most consistent quality and moisture content. I buy their highest grade lumber, ‘select and better’ with a uniform color. Many other places will buy ‘#1 common’ (the next grade down) or even ‘#2 common ( lowest grade) These are much less expensive, however, it takes more time to process the usable lumber. Nothing wrong with that if that is how they are setup. My thinking though, I want to build the highest quality solid oak furniture, I need to start with the best quality lumber.
I buy my lumber planed on both sides at 15/16″ thick in 10’ lengths, random widths from 5″ to 16″. First thing I do is use a hand held moisture meter to check the moisture content of EVERY board (Red Oak needs to be 6 1/2% to 7 1/2% moisture content). As I meter them I also check the board for grain quality and overall appearance. The ‘best of the best’, those boards with perfect moisture content and quality appearance, advance to my panel production, the rest goes into a second stack for leg glue-up , face frames and misc parts.
You see, the key to making solid oak panels is consistent moisture in the boards. I build the panels using a straight-line rip saw, ripping the boards to 2″ to 4″ wide, building and fitting them together one by one so that there are no ‘gaps’ on the ends. If someone is not careful and puts a board into a panel that has too much moisture, eventually that board will dry out and warp, pulling at the panel and causing it to warp and crack. I am sure we have all seen furniture that has warped and cracked, moisture is the culprit. After over 20 years of making solid oak panels I have perfected the process to an art. You want a beautiful solid oak TV Stand, coffee table or desk, you need to start with a quality solid oak panel that is built solid and stable.
That is also why it is so important to be careful where we place our solid oak furniture. Heating vents and direct sunlight can cause wood to dry out and crack. If possible, keep your house at 35% to 40% humidity year round, that will really help your furniture.
How can you tell that you are buying solid oak furniture? I will address that next week.