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You're trying to decide which armoire to purchase. Do you spend the extra money and by the Swaim armoire or do you try and save money by going with the cheaper piece? You like them both, but you are not sure if Swaim furniture is worth the investment. What makes Swaim a high quality furniture manufacturer anyway (besides the price, of course)? High quality furniture is often identifiable simply by the way it was manufactured. Have you ever considered looking at the detail that is given to the construction and finish of a piece of furniture? Was the armoire built with strong corner blocks or dovetail joints? Do you even know what a dovetail joint is?

While it is impossible to detail all of the ways the many different furniture manufacturers build their furniture, there are some details you should be aware of. Some of the distinctions of quality involve the obvious. The finish, for example, should be smooth and inviting to the touch. All varnishes, stains, and finish coats employed should be applied evenly and have a uniform thickness.

Many times the structural details of furniture are concealed due to the decoration or for design reasons. Most of the attributes of well constructed furniture can't be seen and virtually none of the benefits are noticeable. A great example of this deals with the construction of joints. Detail that is given to the construction of joints and the finishing or sanding of unseen or undersides and backs are usually a sign of high quality furniture.

Here are some joint attributes you should pay attention to when identifying high quality furniture:

Corner Blocks. Corner blocks are essential to have at the point of greatest stress and strain in furniture. These corner blocks are used to strengthen the seat corners and prevent the dowels from cracking or breaking under pressure. Corner joints come in many varieties, namely plain miter joint, lap butt, lock joint or plain corner butt.

Dovetail Joints. Dovetail joints have historically been the mainstay for quality drawer construction. This type of joint insures that the drawer fronts will not loosen after years of use. This type of construction was preceded with notched dovetailing that was sometimes concealed.

Bracing. Bracing should be used at points of stress in tables for adequate strength. If stretchers are used, they should be attached to the legs with mortise and tenon joints or with dowel joints. All the corners should be held together with either steel braces or corner blocks. Steel braces are effective especially with disassembled or KD (knock downed) tables that are sent this way for easier shipping. Steel slips and dowels of glue blocks would be employed to hold the table tops to the frames of the table base.

In addition to joint attributes, there are a few things you should look at when purchasing a table or case goods, and also some features to keep an eye on when buying a piece of furniture with drawers.

Tables. The often referred to "solid top" tables are hardly made from one solid slab of wood. The reason is, atmospheric conditions would have a tendency to warp or split such a piece, if it could be found.

Case Goods. A case good is a piece of furniture designed for storage, like a dresser. The back of case goods and the interior are still the best indicators of high quality furniture. when the back panel is applied with care and finished properly with more attention devoted to detail it is almost always a sign of high quality. Note that a recessed back panel cannot be seen from the side of the case goods. Tacks, staples, screws or vertical grooves might be some of the methods used to attach the back panels. Case good quality is most evident when you carefully examine the interior of the furniture.

Return Moldings. These are base moldings for those that are located underneath the top of the case and between the drawers on the outside area of the case that are mitered and continue along to the back of the case on both sides. Sine designs and styles have quality details.

Drawers. Traditionally, joints, slides and the wood used for drawers determined the quality of wood furniture. The standard quality of case goods was usually determined by the dovetail corner joints of drawers and the center-guides. Another indication of the quality of construction is the presence of dust-proof panels between each set of drawers and at the base of the case. The function of these panels is to prevent air circulation that carries dust particles and thus protecting the contents of the drawers. Hard to open and sticky drawers are a problem with most case goods as atmospheric conditions together with humidity affect the wood.

Today, wood or metal glides provide a smoother flow when opening and closing drawers. High quality furniture side guides of drawers are commonly constructed using nylon wheels. Other systems are in use as well. When making your purchase, you should consider this as an important indicator of the quality of the furniture.

Premium plywood or solid wood is still used in the construction of high quality furniture. Inexpensive furniture is expressed by the use of drawers with molded plastic. However, high grades of plastic are in use even among high grades of furniture, particularly in contemporary style furniture and in office furniture.

Drawer interiors should be sanded, finished and waxed with no burrs, splits, or snags so that they are smooth to the touch. Drawers with quality plywood or hardwood sides and backs with dovetail joints on all four corners are indicators of high quality case goods.

New methods that use composite materials together with successful developments in bonding materials allow excellent quality as well. The dust proof panels were prevalent in home before the advent of air-conditioning and were necessary to prevent air contaminants and dust from discoloring the garments in the drawers. Although they are no longer essential, dust proof panels are commonly found in case goods manufactured today.

In addition, high quality furniture construction reveals appropriately scaled and properly installed legs. When drawers are full the case will become heavier and poorly installed legs will break off when the case is moved. If you can see underneath the case, it must be moved and this area will have to be cleaned.

So as you toss and turn at night wondering if that inexpensive armoire was worth the risk, just remember that when you choose a high quality furniture brand like Swaim or South Cone, you don't have to worry about your clothes spilling out everywhere or the legs breaking off when you move it.