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Furniture Types and Terms
Last Updated: 06/29/2009

Furniture Types and Terms
There are two basic types of furniture, upholstered furniture and case goods.

Upholstered furniture has fabric covered cushions or padded sections such as sofas. Case goods refers to furniture that is not upholstered such as tables, chests, cabinets and shelves.

Both upholstered furniture and case goods can be constructed of a variety of woods or wood-composition materials. Furniture woods are either hardwood or softwood.

Hardwood is used to describe such woods as mahogany, walnut, maple, oak, cherry, birch, teak and pecan.

Softwood describes such woods as pine, redwood and cedar. Softwood is less expensive than hardwood and is often used in ready-to-finish and outdoor furniture. In general, it is more subject to dents and deep scratches than hardwood.

Veneered, bonded woods
These terms refer to the various construction techniques and materials used in furniture manufacturing.

Veneered Wood - The use of "veneering" is a time-honored technique in furniture construction. It involves using thin layers of decorative woods "bonded" on the top and bottom of "ply" construction. Veneering allows manufacturers to match fine grain wood sections and to use inlays of various woods to create beautiful designs that cannot be found in solid woods. Ply construction increases the strength and resistance to warping, and is found in all price ranges including very expensive furniture.

Bonded Wood - Bonding is used to "build" large sections of wood from several smaller pieces. There are four basic types of bonding:

  1. Wide boards for table and cabinet tops may be cut into narrow sections and then "bonded" or fitted back together in the width or shape that is needed. The bonding process can make the finished section stronger and less liable to warp or split.
  2. Blocks of wood may be glued together to create a single section of a piece of furniture which is to be carved or "turned" to form a rounded shape.
  3. Wood chips or particles may be mixed with a gluing agent and then processed to make strong, warp-resistant panels used as backing for cabinets and chests of drawers. These man-made panels are called "chipboard," "particleboard" or "fiberboard" and are durable and long-wearing.
  4. Several "layers" of solid wood or particleboard may be bonded one on the other in 3 to 7 layers to make a "ply" construction wood product used to reinforce various types of furniture. Plywood panels are strong and rugged in everyday use.

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