Dangerous Furniture

Even the most indifferent observer may have noticed that not all the money we give our government is well-spent (“pith helmets for postal workers?”) but I confess that I have fallen in love with the U.S. Census Bureau.  I would gladly take them out for dinner and drinks.  If only my love were requited, I would send them a dozen roses.

How casually, how glibly, they provide the most intimate information about ourselves.  They tell me that in 1997, almost 110,000 people went to emergency rooms from accidents with their sofas, couches and davenports.

This number is about half of those injured by their own tables or by their chairs.  I’d go lie down and think about it but 400,000 people were injured involving their beds.  In other words, every day 1000 of our fellow Americans are involved with dangerous bedding.  Mind you these are not the casual accident of waking up with chenille lines on your face, but emergency room visits.

Despite my breathless exhortations, the Census Bureau seems unwilling, however, to tell me how this could happen.  Pulling on a sweater while walking around the living room? Eating the stuffing?  Refusing to move the furniture before a living room re-enactment of Disco Dance Party?  Perhaps we’ve simply become a nation of careless sitters.  Let’s hope not.  There were 43,000 accidents with toilets.

And, worse yet, accidents with sofas are almost three times the number of accidents with scissors.  Clearly, Mom was wrong.  She should have told us not to run with couches.

The obvious solution is to augment the warning labels.  “Kids, this sofa is not a toy.  It is not a very good trampoline.” But, it’s not like they don’t warn us about things already.  There’s a bottle of dried bobcat urine (to keep pests out of the garden) that says “Not for human consumption” or the ovenware that says “Ovenware will get hot when used in oven”.  There’s a heat gun that says “Do not use this tool as a hairdryer”.  My package of Austin Peanut Butter Crackers includes the warning that the package includes peanut ingredients.  Perhaps I should take some cold comfort in this.  After all, Heinz does sell both cider vinegar and imitation cider vinegar.

But, back to the topic at hand (such as it is).  The Furniture Fire Safety Act requires upholstered furniture to be labeled with:

“This product contains polyurethane foam and presents a severe fire hazard! In case of fire, serious personal injury or death can result from extreme heat, rapid oxygen depletion, and the production of toxic gases. Do not expose this product to any intense radiant heat or open flames such as space heaters, open burning, cigarettes, naked lights, matches, electrical sparks, or other intense heat sources.”  And so I would strongly encourage you not to smoke your sofa.

I’d go fix myself a cup of coffee and sit down and worry about all of this if I weren’t so scared of the coffee maker.  Maybe I’ll just go and write a thank you to the Census Bureau.  I couldn’t find any statistics on accidents with pen and paper.

Everything you know is wrong

I’ve been married for more than 15 years so I’m accustomed to being told I’m wrong.  I used to think that maybe I was occasionally right, but now I know even that was a mistake.  And as a note to my wife, honey, if I really was right, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to be.  Like most folks, I’ve even been wrong about furniture. In this article, we’ll tackle a few myths about furniture that I used to cherish.

Furniture made long ago was built better than today’s furniture.  Yes, the quality of the wood was probably better because first growth forests were plentiful with tighter grains and there were some cuts of wood (like quarter sawn oak) and kinds of wood (like Cuban mahogany) available that are not available anymore but the tools of today’s trade allow for accuracy in cutting and joinery that were impossible a hundred years ago.  In addition, most furniture is glued and the glues of today are much better than the old hide glues especially the polymer glues like Gorilla Glue.  Finishes of today are also much more resistant to wear and tear than was the shellac of yesteryear.

Wood finish needs to be fed.  As we talked some months ago, there’s nothing you can add to a finish (unless it is more finish) that it can absorb or bond to.  The only thing a finish needs is a good waxing with a paste wax once a year and that’s just to put a protective layer between you and the finish.

Wood is alive and needs to breathe.  Sorry, once the tree was cut down, the wood died.  In fact, there’s some reason not to expose wood to the air since that makes it more likely it will absorb (and give off) moisture, making the wood move and causing cracks and loosening joints.

Wood veneer is bad.  Plywood, with its grain running in alternating direction with each leaf is actually more stable and harder to break than straight lumber.  What we’ve sadly become accustomed to is cheap pressboard furniture where the veneer is just painted paper that can peel off.  Real wood veneer is an opportunity to have visible wood grains that would be impossible to purchase if the entire piece were made of them.  And the choice of veneer can be one of style.  I’ve seen solid oak furniture from the 1940’s with a walnut veneer because oak was not a popular “look”.

All the wood in a set will exactly match.  Even if all the wood came from the same tree, there will significant differences in the grain between areas of the tree.  As the saying goes, wood is a natural product…some variation is to be expected.

The most expensive fabric is the most durable.  Silks and damasks can be gorgeous looking fabrics (and quite expensive) but they won’t hold up like some of the new nylon and olefin materials.  If you really like the look of silk, consider a blend.

You can’t clean leather or keep it looking clean.  Leather does change with time as the oils and dyes in the leather shift but this can be as much an affect of the type of dye as it is the leather.  Pigmented leather will change color less than aniline dyes.  Most of the places you can buy leather furniture will come with recommendations for how to clean it.

Fabric on the bottom of leather cushion is a cheap shortcut.  When you sit on the cushion, air escapes.  The fabric helps the air to get out of the cushion quickly.  Otherwise a leather sofa would feel like sitting on blown up furniture.

Box springs don’t need to be replaced as often as mattresses.  Sometimes the sag can be the box springs and not the mattress.  Most manufactures design box springs and mattresses to work together, when it’s time for one to go, they both should.

That said, I still prefer real wood to veneer, older furniture to newer and organic fabrics to synthetic.  What the heck, I may be wrong but at least I’ve got my opinions.

Exotic Woods

Trees are wonderful things.  Their shade is a comfort to the young and old, their age venerable, their structure striking, their physiology amazing…and we can make cool stuff out of them.  And there’re a lot of different kinds of them.

With the massive numbers of imported furniture, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to answer the question, “What kind of wood is that?”  Here’s a little pedantic litany of some of the more unusual hardwoods that are used to make furniture.

Australia:

Australian Blackwood is one of several hundred species in the Acacia genus.  Most of it comes from southern Australia, and Tasmania is an important source.  It’s golden to chocolate brown with darker markings, saws easily and because it bends well, is often steamed and shaped.

Silky-oak (Cardwelia sublimis) has the beauty of oak grain, particularly when quartersawn, and so is often used as a substitute for oak, although it isn’t quite as durable.

Black Bean (Castanospermum australe) from Queensland, is a small tree but the wood is highly decorative with dense, clear grain.

Japan:

Sen, or Acanthopanax ricinfolius, is also grown in China and Korea and is easily mistaken for ash.  It grows logs up to 3’ across and is frequently used for veneers and plywood.

Africa:

Afzelia, sometimes called apa, grows in much of the southern continent.  It looks a lot like mahogany with a coarse texture.  It is 10-15% denser than oak.

Aningeria was introduced in the 1960’s as Tanzanian walnut and it has a fine and even texture.

Gaboon (Aucoumea klaineana) from Gabon is pale-pink, about the weight of spruce and is used mostly as veneers and in the plywood industry.

Rhodesian Teak (Baikiaea plurijuga), like other teaks, is dense, durable, resistant to molds and mildew and frequently used to make furniture for outdoors.

South America:

Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata) from the costal forests of Brazil, reddens like cherry when exposed to the air and is commonly used in violin bows because of its weight, flexibility and strength.

Pacific tropics:

Cordia grows in many countries, looks a lot like teak and is only slightly less dense.  The texture is coarse but and its light in weight.

Kapur is strong and stable and although plain in appearance also looks much like teak.

Jelutong (Dyera costulata) is almost as straw colored as yellow pine and is sometimes used as a replacement for pine in toys and models.

West Indian Satinwood (Fagara flava) is another very blonde wood with a wavy grain traditionally used in 18th century Adam, Sheraton and Hepplewhite furniture.

Ramin, because of its plain and straight grain, is used as a substitute for beech.

Furniture Care Tips For Different Furniture Types

Furniture is the heart and soul of a house. The type, texture and the material of your furniture decides the role of a room. It might be really inappropriate to have that Cambodian leather couch in your kitchen rather than in your living room. Most of us eclectic our furniture hoping for a prolonged use with quality and comfort, but wind up usually with a dissatisfied experience right after a few years of use! This is why taking care of your furniture is utmost necessary.

Here are a few tips on how to take care of your furniture keeping an account on the material used…

  1. Fabric Furniture

The attractive factor of fabric furniture is that they are really expendable and are easy to maintain. But a regular check-up and measures has to be done for its prolonged use. Include these tips in your routine check-up:-

  • Vacuum with upholstery attachments to remove dust, dirt and debris between the fabrics. Also make sure the suction is kept low.
  • Spills and marks must be taken care as early as possible because they might get tougher to attend when left unattended for a longer time.
  • Say no to detergents and abrasive cleaners. Using high standard fabric cleaners to take care of the spills and stains are recommended.
  • Sunlight can be harsh on your fabric furniture. Direct exposure of sunlight might result in color fades and weakened fibers resulting in a total disaster.
  • Be cautious while handling sharp objects near your furniture.

We love our pets. But they love our couch more.  Pet odors and fur are really 24problematic when it comes to our fabric furniture. Odors are mostly caused by urine and drools. You might end up with a stinking sofa if not attended properly. Use an oxidizing stain remover for those yellow stains and odors.

  1. Wood Furniture

Just as the price tag states, wood furniture has always been a symbol of royalty and elegance. Since you are spending hug on bringing them home, make sure you maintain them with the same enthusiasm. Follow these 5 tips for extending their lives:-

  • Clean your wooden furniture with extreme caution. Use warm water and mild dish soaps for cleaning as high concentrated soaps or detergents are harsh on the texture and polish of the furniture.
  • Wipe the water and dirt off with soft and clean cloth piece. Use a toothbrush to clean the hard-to-get areas. Make sure you dry-off the moistures present.
  • The best way for covering up the finish is to use a good quality soft paste wax. Follow the instructions as in the label and apply a thin coat as directed. Wait for 5 minutes and polish gently with a shoe polish brush. Repeat the same after an hour.
  • Keep out of reach from direct sunlight to hinder the furniture from losing its shine and color.
  • Using a humidifier in dry seasons is well appreciated as dry heat shrinks the wood leaving behind cracks.
  1. Leather Furniture

Leather is the most durable and low maintenance needed material in this list if maintained properly. Leather gets better with ageing. But, they do tend to attract scratches often. This could be your pets doing or might be an accident from your part. A professional touch would be required to cover up damages of great extent.

Here are a few tips on how to take care of your leather furniture:-

  • Just like wood, leather will fade and stiffen when exposed to hot surfaces and direct sunlight. So, make sure you install your leather furniture away from these places to ensure its reliability.
  • Use a damp white cloth piece and a mild detergent to clean the racked-up dirt from the surface.
  • Restrain your pet from roaming in the area where the furniture is kept to avoid accidents.
  • Immediately use a dry cloth for accidental spills. Using your hair dryer to dry the moisture up would create more complications.

Conclusion

The life of your furniture depends on the way it’s been used and taken care of. Proper furniture care, maintenance and cleaning is mandatory for their extended life.

Author Bio: Ella James  is a lifestyle and decor blogger and editor at Lijo Decor. She is a long-time native from Miami, Florida , USA who loves to publish her own articles in various lifestyle-related websites.

For more useful information, visit our blog at the Furniture Works website.

 

Shopping Case Goods

Let’s talk about the Great American Pastime…shopping…and how to find good furniture.  First of all, I’ll start with 3 axioms.  Everybody wants a bargain. Value is made up of both price and quality. And, lastly, you should buy the best quality piece of furniture you can afford.

Of course, there are exceptions to this last one.  If you’re moving every year, or on an extremely tight budget, you may want dispose-a-furniture, but for your sake and the sake of the environment, it’s better to get something that lasts.  It’s better to give something away than to throw something away.

We’ll start with case goods.  These are chests of drawers, vanities, dressers, sideboards, armoires, entertainment centers, think anything big and rectangular.

Low budget case goods may be made up of particle board or Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF).  Their finishes will be paper or vinyl veneer with the grain painted on or covered in house paint or enamel.  The joints are butt-lapped (end to edge) and held together with staples.  The back is likely to be cardboard (glued or nailed on) as will be the bottom of the drawers.  The drawer fronts will be attached with glue or screws.  If it’s an armoire or entertainment center, the doors won’t open all the way back to the sides of the case.  The carved details will be plastic or resin rather than carved wood.  Based on my own experience, expect three to five years of use.

Middle of the line pieces will be made out of plywood with multiple ply veneers and have a finish of colored lacquer or Formica.  The joinery may be a mixture but the best joints will have dovetails, dadoes or mortise and tenon joints.  The back will be recessed in a rabbeted joint and be nailed or screwed on.  Only the back of the piece will look different than the front or sides.  The drawer bottoms will sit inside a dado joint ( a little groove) and be either masonite or thin plywood.  The drawer fronts will be attached with a mortise and tenon joint.  The drawers will use metal glides and you’ll be easily able to access the back of the drawer.  The inside may be sanded and finished. Depending on use, you’ll have these items for ten to fifteen years.

Heirloom pieces, those which you can pass down to your grandkids, will be a whole ‘nother cat.  They’ll be made out of solid wood or may have up to 7 plys in the veneer.  The look will be a hand rubbed finish, although, truth to tell, most commercial finishes are sprayed on with a high volume low pressure (HVLP) sprayer these days.  The inside of the cabinet should have blocks in corners to increase stability.  The blocks should be at least glued and may be screwed.  Almost all the joinery will be dovetails, dadoes, some mortise and tenon and even some miter joints.  Like before, the back will be rabbetted in and sometimes will have a finish (although since this is rarely seen, not all do).  Under the drawers, which set inside a dado groove, you’ll see corner blocks and the bottom will be made of plywood or solid wood.  The quality of the drawer glides should be noticeably better and allow full access to the inside.  The inside of the drawers may be stained and finished.  The doors should have either piano (long) hinges or slide back into the cabinet (pocket doors) or be double hinged so they’ll open all the way to sides of the cabinet.

It’s worth noting that these are really ideals and you’ll frequently find a mix of better and lesser qualities (hey, just like me) in the same item.  A visit to an antique or used furniture store (shameless plug) is a good way to see a variety of techniques, woods and finishes.

And I highly recommend talking with your customer sales associate (aka salesman) if you have any questions.  Shopping is all about trust.  You trust that what you’re buying is worth your money.  The salesman trusts your check is good.