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Dining Room Furniture Product Knowledge

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Dining room Chair construction information and important terms for retail salespeople.

Excerpts from FURNITURE WORLD Magazine’s sales education guides will be published in the next few issues of FURNITURE WORLD. The entire dining room furniture guide contains 16 pages of information on construction, styles and terms. For more information on these ($1.95 each) guides contact FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at 914-235-3095 or email education@furninfo.com.


Dining Chair Quality
Quality dining chairs feel heavy, substantial and rigid. Chair quality is easy to see and demonstrate since every rail, post and joint is exposed and easily examined.
Chair comfort is one of the most important indicators of good design. You should demonstrate how the design of the seat, back and arms contribute to seating comfort. Make sure your customers sit in each chair they consider purchasing.

Chair strength is extremely important, since dining chairs often take more abuse than any other piece of household furniture. They get knocked over, stood on, spilled on and balanced on their back legs. Poor construction integrity resulting in loose joints will certainly cause customer dissatisfaction, or injury.

Fortunately, most dining chairs are very well made. Box seat wooden chairs often have mortise and tenon joints or dowel joints joining leg posts, stretchers, back posts and rails. Corner blocks are used at stress points to strengthen the seat and the joint, especially where stretchers are not used. All joints should be rigid and the chair should not wobble.

Sloppy joinery and the use of filler to smooth out joints is an indicator of poor quality, as is the excessive use of nails and screws to stabilize a wooden joint.

Different wood species do not expand and contract at the same rates. This may cause problems at joints where two species are joined - but not necessarily. There are many fine windsor chairs, for example, dating from the mid 18th century which combine Pine, Hickory, Oak, Ash and others in the same piece.

Steam bent parts will generally be stronger than shaped parts or those made from several components joined by finger and laminated joints.
Finish quality can be judged by examining places near joints or carvings that are hard to reach and so require hand sanding - especially on chairs with posts, pierced splats, slats or turned parts. These areas should be smooth, evenly stained and free from excess glue.

PARTIAL DINING GLOSSARY
APRON: An apron is a (normally) wooden piece that connects the uppermost portion of a chair or table’s legs... just under the seat or top.

ARM CHAIR: A chair with arm rests.

BALL FOOT: The rounded end of a turned leg.

BANDING: Decorative inlay or marquetry with a veneer of contrasting color or grain. Often used on the outside edge of fine dining table tops or drawers.

BLIND MORTISE: A mortise that does not extend all the way through the material in which it is cut.

BLOCK FOOT: A square vertical foot at the base of a straight, un-tapered leg.

BOW BACK: A chair back formed by a bent piece of wood fitted with vertical spindles (as in a Windsor chair). The bow or hoop is continuous down to the arms or the seat.

BOW TOP: The continuously curved top rail of a chair.

BREAK FRONT: A bookcase or china cabinet made of three sections where the center section projects beyond the two end sections.

BROKEN PEDIMENT: The space or structure above the cornice which has side lines or scrolls that don’t meet in the center or come to a point. Often used on secretaries, clocks and chinas.

BUFFET: A small cupboard or sideboard used to store dining implements.

BUN FOOT: A flattened ball foot.

BUTTERFLY TABLE: A small drop-leaf table whose leaves are supported by a swinging support which resembles a butterfly wing or rudder.

CABRIOLE: A furniture leg that curves outward from the structure which it supports and then descends in a tapering reverse curve terminating in an ornamental foot. Often used on Queen Anne and Chippendale styled dining chairs.

CENTER GLIDE: A center track upon which a drawer glides.

CHINA CABINET: A cabinet which is used for the display and storage of fine china.

CLAW AND BALL FOOT: The terminal portion of a chair leg (usually cabriole) consisting of a carved animal or bird claw clutching a ball.

COMB BACK: A Windsor chair having an extension of the back above the arm rail that consists of five or more spindles and a curved top rail that resembles a comb.

CORNER BLOCKS: Blocks of wood placed at the major joints in a furniture frame. They are usually screwed and glued into place.

CORNER CUPBOARD: A triangular shaped dining room china cabinet made to fit into a corner.

CORNICE: The top or finishing molding on a piece of furniture.

CREDENZA: A sideboard or buffet.

CRESCENT STRETCHER: (Also crinoline stretcher.) A stretcher used on a Windsor chair which connects the two front legs with a semi-circular curve.

CROSS BANDING: A veneer border with its grain oriented at right angles to adjacent wood pieces. Also a veneer glued between an inner core and an outer panel with its grain at right angles to that of the core.

CROSS STRETCHER: An X-shaped stretcher connecting table or chair legs.

CUPBOARD: A cabinet, box or closet with shelves designed to hold cups, dishes or food.

DENTAL MOLDING: Ornamental cornice molding consisting of rectangular blocks spaced at regular intervals resembling teeth.

DISTRESSING: Furniture process that purposely mars a finish to give it a rustic look or the appearance of great age.

DOUBLE PEDESTAL: A table whose top rests on two supporting columns.

DOVE TAIL JOINT: Multiple flaring mortise and tenon joint used for joining boards at their ends. It resists pulling apart in all directions except one. Also a butterfly shaped inset used to join boards.

DOWEL JOINT: A joint made by placing glue covered wooden peg (pin) into a corresponding hole. A compressed dowel joint is made by fitting an oversized peg which has been compressed, into a bored hole. Once in the hole, moisture in the glue surrounding the peg causes it to swell. This method, produces a strong, permanent joint.

DROP LEAF: The hinged portion of a table or desk that can be raised to increase the dining or working area.

DUST BOARD: Flat thin wood used to separate a drawer from the ones above and below it.

FACE VENEER: The top veneer layer that is seen in the finished product.

FIGURE: Exotic wood markings such as butts, burls, curls, mottles, feathers, waves, crotches etc.

FINGER JOINT: A joint made by interlocking finger-like projections which are cut into two boards.

FOOTRAIL: The front stretcher of a chair.

FRENCH DOVETAIL: A joint which has along dovetail shaped tenon that is slipped into a corresponding mortise. French dovetails are often used to connect drawer front and side panels.

FRETWORK: Decorative cutting consisting of small, straight bars arranged in angled patterns.

GALLERY: A small ornamental barrier or railing around the top of a table, cabinet or buffet, etc.

GATELEG TABLE: A table which has drop leaves supported by a leg which swings out like a gate.

H-STRETCHER: A stretcher which connects the front and back legs on each side of a table, chair or case piece... and is also joined across the middle in an “H” configuration.

HARDWOOD: Wood derived from angiosperms (broad-leafed trees such as oak, beech, maple, mahogany and walnut). The category includes some woods that are actually soft.

HIGH PRESSURE LAMINATE: Synthetic sheets that are bonded to a core material. Laminates offer heat, soil and stain resistance. They are widely used in less expensive and casual dining room sets.

HOOP BACK: A chair back formed by a bent piece of wood fitted with vertical spindles. In Windsor chairs a bow back.

HUTCH: A low cupboard with doors, that is normally surmounted by open shelves.

INLAY: Wood or other materials which are set into corresponding carved out recesses, often producing a pattern.

KILN DRIED: Kiln drying reduces the moisture content of the lumber, a process which inhibits checking, splitting and strengthens the finished product.

KNEE: Also hip. The upper portion of a cabriole leg that flanges out.

LADDER BACK: A chair back which has horizontal cross-rails or slats that resemble a ladder.

LAP BUTT: A dovetail joint in which the recesses in one board are only cut part of the way through so that part of the thickness of one board overlaps the end of the other.

LOOSE LEAF: An insert that can be placed into the top of an extension table to increase the surface dining area.

LYRE: Representations of a harp-like instrument are used in many French and English designs. The lyre is used extensively on the chair backs and table supports of Duncan Phyfe.

MITER JOINT: A joint made by fastening together two pieces cut at an angle (usually 45 degrees).

MORTISE: A hole, groove or slot in wood into which a tenon or tongue fits to form a joint.

OVAL BACK: The shape of a chair back often associated with Hepplewhite designs.

PAD FOOT: A simple foot treatment on the end of a cabriole leg.

PEDIMENT: The usually triangular or rounded structure above the cornice, which is often seen on china cabinets.


The entire dining room furniture guide contains 16 pages of information on construction, styles and terms. For more information on these ($1.95 each) guides contact FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at 914-235-3095 or email education@furninfo.com.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.