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Hardwood furniture has long been a popular choice for homeowners due to its durability, longevity and classic style. However, not all hardwood furniture is created equal, and the quality of the wood, as well as the manufacturing process, can have a significant impact on the final product. In this article, I will explore the different factors that impact the quality of hardwood furniture and the role of manufacturers and retailers in mitigating these issues.
Drying Process For Wood
One of the most critical factors that determines the quality of hardwood furniture is the drying process used to prepare the wood for manufacturing. When freshly cut, wood contains a significant amount of moisture that must be removed before it can be used for furniture. This process is crucial to ensure that the wood is stable, strong and resistant to warping or cracking over time.
There are two primary methods used to dry wood: air drying and kiln drying. Air drying involves leaving the wood to dry naturally in the open air, which can take several months or even years. If you use specialty woods in your products, you may want to choose this method, as some require a slower drying process to preserve their unique color and grain patterns.
Kiln drying, on the other hand, is a more rapid and controlled process that uses heat and humidity to remove moisture from the wood. Kiln drying typically takes several weeks and can be done on a large scale, making it a popular choice for commercial furniture manufacturers. Kiln drying allows for more precise control over the moisture content of the wood, which helps ensure that it is adequately dried and stable for use in furniture.
Manufacturing For Certain Regions And Wood Types
When it comes to manufacturing hardwood furniture, different regions and types of wood require different techniques to produce the best results. For example, oak, maple and hickory are commonly used in furniture manufacturing in the United States, while tropical hardwoods such as teak and mahogany are more prevalent in other areas.
In addition to considering the wood type and desired style, producers and manufacturers must also adapt the drying process and manufacturing techniques to the climate and environmental conditions of the region. For example, in regions with high humidity levels, it may be necessary to use specialized techniques to prevent warping and cracking due to moisture absorption.
Humidity Changes And Winter Weather
Despite the best efforts of furniture manufacturers, hardwood furniture is still susceptible to damage from changes in humidity and temperature. During the dry winter months, indoor heating systems can cause the air in homes and manufacturing facilities to become even drier, which can cause damage to furniture, such as cracks, warping and other types of damage.
To avoid cracking in wooden furniture during the winter, manufacturers of furniture should maintain a stable indoor humidity level—many sources recommend around 40% to 50% humidity. You can achieve this by using a humidifier or by placing a bowl of water in the room to increase the humidity in the air. It is also a good idea to avoid placing wooden furniture near heating vents or sources of direct sunlight in manufacturing facilities and during shipping, which can cause uneven drying and contribute to cracking.
When you are shipping or storing furniture before shipment, it’s important to consider all of those factors, as often items that depart from one location can arrive at a different location in a shockingly different condition, especially if the move happens during the winter or involves storage or long-distance transfer in humid summer weather.
What Manufacturers And Retailers Should Do To Help Customers
Manufacturers and retailers can also take several steps to educate their salespeople and customers on the subject of hardwood furniture as a natural product and the potential for changes in appearance and condition due to humidity.
1. Provide training to salespeople: Sales staff should be trained to understand the nature of hardwood furniture and how it reacts to changes in humidity. This will enable them to provide accurate information to customers and answer any questions they may have.
Personnel—both at the retail and customer service level—should be empowered to educate customers on how nature, humidity level, moving in winter or storing furniture in storage facilities or a garage may affect their items. This can help them not only properly maintain and care for their items but also avoid claims and the need for repairs. Many people have vacation homes, and they turn off heaters, air conditioners and humidifiers to save on electricity costs; properly educating customers who are making purchases for their vacation homes will help them properly handle their furniture and other purchases made of natural wood.
2. Create informative product literature: Manufacturers and retailers should create informative product literature that highlights the natural properties of hardwood furniture and the effects of humidity changes. This literature should be made available to both sales staff and customers.
3. Provide care instructions: Care instructions should be included with each piece of hardwood furniture you sell. These instructions should emphasize the need to maintain a consistent humidity level in the home and offer tips on how to do so.
4. Display samples: Retailers should display samples of hardwood furniture in different stages of aging to illustrate how the furniture’s appearance may change over time. This can help customers to understand the natural beauty of hardwood furniture and appreciate its unique characteristics.
5. Encourage questions: Retailers should encourage customers to ask questions about the properties of hardwood furniture and how to care for it. This way, customers can make informed decisions to ensure that they are happy with their purchase for years to come.
Beyond furniture purchases, educating consumers on the advantages and disadvantages of natural wood versus compressed or manufactured wood may also help them make proper decisions on things like cabinets. For many people, it may be better to get cabinets made of compressed wood rather than natural, while others will decide that they’re able to care for natural wood properly.
By taking these steps, manufacturers and retailers can help minimize damage to hardwood furniture and educate salespeople and customers on how to care for it.