What is new furniture made of? What is the process called?

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Forum topic by stevef22 posted 02-15-2011 01:27 AM 16735 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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35 posts in 3383 days

02-15-2011 01:27 AM

I was wondering what all this cheapo furniture is made of? I recently walked into a cabinet store and saw all the beautiful looking cabinets. However these where all made in China!! And the finish felt plastic. I noticed some spots where the finish easily rubbed off.

Is there a website that explains this “fake” wood? Or explains the building process of cheapo furniture.

I walked into Basset furniture and all the stuff is the same. Where did all the solid wood go?

It all looks so beautiful, but you barely bump it and a scratch the size of the grand canyon appears white making the whole peice of furnature appear cheap.

The Cabinets where advertised 100% real wood but I am hardly believing it.

Are all these cabinets new store purchased 100% LAMINATE over some soft wood?

16 replies so far

View christopheralan's profile


1126 posts in 4225 days

#1 posted 02-15-2011 01:54 AM

MDF maybe? With a faux finish? Donno man. My wife and I get most of our stuff from antiques dealers, where we know some of the history and materials. What sux is that most people don’t really care anymore. They look at us woodworkers and can’t imagine paying double, tripple, or more than what the box stores will charge them. Hopefully, the industry will turn back our direction, and “real” will be “in” again.

-- christopheralan

View rustfever's profile


775 posts in 3815 days

#2 posted 02-15-2011 02:02 AM

I hate working with the MDF, vynal, and other fake woods and finishes. Isn’t it great to get a real board and cut it with a saw or the planer? You can just smell all of the real wood. And your eyes and throat don’t burn.

-- Rustfever, Central California

View christopheralan's profile


1126 posts in 4225 days

#3 posted 02-15-2011 02:09 AM

I think MDF does have its place, but I think it is far over used my manufacturers. It does keep costs down, and lets face it. Most of us are cheap-skates. This is the “I want it now and cheap” gereration and like I said, most don’t care about “real” anymore. Look at “reality TV” for example. Nothing close to “real” from what I can tell.

I just hope that for us that build and make to sell, we can find the customers who still want the real-deal.

-- christopheralan

View Colin 's profile


93 posts in 3316 days

#4 posted 02-15-2011 02:56 AM

MDF is great for painting. But I think the OP had a run-in with a sprayed finish/stain. The stain is mixed into the finish so the color does not penetrate and any scratches go right down to bare wood. It is probably a birch from northern china/russia. That stuff has very little visible grain pattern and is very light in color.


View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3476 days

#5 posted 02-15-2011 03:35 AM

Not likely to turn around. The country is broken I’m sad to say.

I have heard that Henry Ford paid his workers 2 to 3 times what they could make anywhere else. He said “They can’t buy my cars on the standard wages of the day”. Some folks thought he was crazy.

Compare that to today. Walmart tells a product manufacrturer “you will lower your price or we will have it made in China”. So some manufacturers move their production to China to get cheap enough to keep the Walmart business. Others put their foot down and refuse. So their products get copied and manufactured in China anyway, and sold as “True Value”. Anybody see any concern for the well being of American workers today?

A small cabinet maker started making child’s furniture for Walmart. Spent $2,000,000 on equipment and facilities and hired 50 workers. All was going well. Then truck loads of product started being returned from Walmart. The same product appears on the Walmart shelves now with “Made in China” stickers on the bottom and paint that contains God knows what.

Any body care about quality anymore? As woodworkers we go to buy tools. Lets see, I can get a great Lie Neilson plane for $400 or a Chinese made Buck Brothers, Stanley knock-off for $20. There are two things wrong here. The materials and labor and overhead for a decent, mass produced, tool should be about $50 to $75. A standard markup should be 1.5 to 2 : 1, so a decent, mass produced, plane should be sold at about $75 to $150. But, with a piece of import crap that looks like the domestically mass produced plane selling for $20, the domestic mass producer goes out of business due to insufficient volume to support mass production. So consumers are left with super quality, hand made in America for $400, or $20 crap to chose from. I don’t see the way this can change.

Sorry, I guess I got OT, but sometimes I just have to vent a little before I blow a fuse. I’ll shut up now.

View biglarry's profile


76 posts in 3193 days

#6 posted 02-15-2011 03:35 AM

I have been out of woodworking for the last 8 years because of a job change and now I don’t have the time. When I was selling furniture I felt that I got the sale and my price because of using”real wood”. Back then a lot of the stuff at least used solid woods on the face but like you said most of that is gone except for this fake wood.

When a customer is looking for custom piece they don’t want to see MDF, particle board and sometimes even plywood. When I gave customers the choice of solid wood or plywood for the drawer interior many times they would chose the solid wood even when it cost more.

When I retire the end of this year I hope that I “can find the customers who still want the real-deal.” like christopheralan said.

-- "When the going gets tough, switch to power tools." - Red Green

View christopheralan's profile


1126 posts in 4225 days

#7 posted 02-15-2011 03:44 AM

Crank49, I hate to admit it, but I think you are right to a point. There are some things that are being made and sold that I have no chance competing with. So, I starting making 100% unique, one-of-a-kind items for some of my customers that they could’t get anywhere else. That has been the winning formula for me (so far, anyway).

Best of luck to you biglarry. I hope that retirement goes well for you and you can find those customers.

-- christopheralan

View Jack_T's profile


623 posts in 3536 days

#8 posted 02-15-2011 05:09 AM

To go back to Steve’s original questions:

What is new furniture made of? Junk/cr_p
What is the process called? Shoddy workmanship

Why does it sell? I think a conversation that I had with my sister-in-law might shed some light on that. Her house is 10 years old. The prior owners added hard wood floors after they moved in. My sister-in-law wants to change the floor to tile, mainly because of maintenance issues. The first question that she asked her tile installer was “In five years when I get tired of the tile will you be able to rip it out.” I think most people understand the difference in quality; they just don’t see the need to pay for it because they have no plan to keep the furniture for a long time. It is the same mentality of leasing a car. Why pay for the whole car when I will only drive it for two years. Why pay for furniture that will last for 50 or more years when I am getting rid of it in 5 years anyway. Until that view of life changes most people will continue to choose the junk and shoddy workmanship.

-- Jack T, John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4153 days

#9 posted 02-15-2011 05:09 AM

I’ve seen cheap wood furniture that is made of wood, but the finish
is a faux-wood finish. It’s kind of bizarre, but probably an answer
to retail consumer behavior: attraction to “real wood” and super-low
prices but disdain for cheap “real wood” with a transparent finish on
it. Furniture stores that sell these super-bargain 5 piece bedroom sets
and so forth need these sorts of things to get the customers coming in.

Sometimes these furniture pieces have plastic “carved” parts as well
and the painted faux finish allows the piece to have a consistent look.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3579 posts in 3614 days

#10 posted 02-15-2011 06:19 AM

Back when I started working as an engineer, my bride just had to have an entertainment center. We shopped around at a lot of “furniture” stores, and thankfully settled on a place that would order what she wanted…a solid cherry model with beveled glass in the doors. That was in 1985. We still have it, and now that I’m 25 years older, I can’t just buck it around the house like I used to. It’s massively heavy, even when it’s empty. Made in Kentucky. The Chinese are going to kill us, mark my words, by putting lead, mercury, melamine and ethylene glycol in their exports to us.

I predict that the next person to walk on the moon will be Chinese. They’ll kill even more people than the Russians did in their space program to get there, but they’ve got a billion of them, so what the heck?

America’s going down, and it pains me.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View PhineasWhipsnake's profile


77 posts in 3553 days

#11 posted 02-15-2011 06:21 AM

I recently went into a local furniture store and looked at some pretty impressive solid wood carved bedstands. They were all made by the “Godless Commie Slavemasters” (Red China) and were priced less than I could buy the raw materials. No wonder the furniture makers in the Carolinas are either out of business or have outsourced to the third world. Sad day

-- Gene T

View Billyr's profile


5 posts in 3176 days

#12 posted 02-15-2011 07:08 AM

Wonder where people will work at when China builds everything?Most furniture made now isnt worth anything.Thats why i plan on making most of mine.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3488 days

#13 posted 02-15-2011 07:17 AM

Until this throw away society has had enough of the junk and demands higher quality for their money. We as consumers must let merchants known enough is enough. Unfortunately those who patronize Wal-Mart are just as much to blame as Wal-Mart is. Wal-Mart has ruin this country along with those that support Wal-Mart. Other retailers such as the big box stores are equally as bad in the products that they sell as well. Until we limit the amount of imports from China to equal the amount of exports to China will there be a shift in the way business is done. We use to have an abundance of jobs here until big business went to foreign countries. Now people have to scratch just to keep a job of any kind these days.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View cFurnitureGuy's profile


145 posts in 3681 days

#14 posted 02-15-2011 05:00 PM

I can tell you that the wood used in alot of the import furniture from China is made of “rubberwood”or “Birch”. They also have another domestic wood that is commonly used called “He wood” which is a local hardwood that is fast growing but has alot of knots in it and is closer to a pine or softwood.

All of the woods i named above are typically stained or faux finished to match the desired style. Even things like end panels, shelves…etc are simply MDF or partical board that have Birch veeners then stained to match. The carvings and some complex moldings that you see can somtimes be a plastic resin as well. tyically the factories have a couple master carvers that will make a “master carving” and then they will have resin molds made for production…. again they will stain and finish them to look like real wood. this obviously reduces the final cost of the product but is definitely less desireable!

Sometimes you will see products made with real Maple, Oak, walnut… etc but these woods are all imported into China and the cost is doubled and sometimes triple for the raw materials.

As far as quality goes, it really depends on the factory where it is made! some of them dont care what goes out the door…some of them stand behind thier products and will product really nice furniture! I wish it could be real walnut or cherry but to me its the RETAILERS that are the problem here!!! Example: lets say you see an Entertainment Center in Walmart for $499.00…. its made of particleboard and laminate with some solidwood moldings and rails… Walmart will buy that Ent. Center for $108.00 then mark it up 4.5 times to sell it to you! If it wasnt marked up 4.5 times you would see a lot more “real wood”, “solidwood” quality furniture out there made in solid oak cherry or maple!!!

Limiting or stopping imports from china isnt going to help either… example: bedroom furniture has an extra import duty added to it when it comes from China. which has raised the costs and retailers cant sell you nightstand for 1000.00! so now most bedroom furniture comes out of Vietnam!!! The extra import duty only affects bedroom furniture from china so retailers and importers go to other countries to get around it!

Just my 2 cents!

-- Justin, Savannah,Ga

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 3449 days

#15 posted 02-16-2011 01:43 AM

I agree that people will buy the cheaper stuff. This is because we have been trained for many, many years to buy the cheaper item. We all do the same as well. If we find a cheap deal at HF, we let everyone know about it so they can get in on the deal as well. Or we won’t buy it until we have a coupon or wait for the holiday selling season when everything is on sale.

With my business, I do not offer coupons nor run sales on my products. When people ask, I let them know that I offer a fair price that everyone can take advantage of or I can raise the price and then give them a discount to put the price back to where I have it originally.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

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