What you need to know before buying new furniture.
Wood Selection for furniture
- Insist on premium grade hardwood for finer, more even grain and color.
- Look for wide, thick boards with well-matched grain and color.
- Avoid “glue-ups”, thin pieces of wood laminated together.
Joinery types used in Furniture manufacturing
- Mortise and tenon joinery is the strongest wood-to-wood connection and allows for contraction and expansion of wood.
- Wood pegs, flush with surface, should finish openings.
- Frame and panel construction in cabinets and case goods accommodates natural expansion and contraction.
- Drawers should show the same quality of materials and craftsmanship as the rest of the piece, with dovetailed or hand-pegged stub mortise joints.
- Drawers should be smoothly finished on inside, back and sides.
- Drawers should open and close easily, flush with the piece.
- Drawers should have an even gap all around the face.
- Full-extension glide system on drawer bottom allows drawer to extend fully without falling out.
- Backs of furnishings should be solid wood, as well-finished as front and sides.
- Avoid particle board or composite backs, often simply nailed on.
- Be wary of stains used to hide uneven color and quality.
- Oil and wax finishes are not water, heat or stain resistant, are more difficult to maintain and allow wood to dry out.
- Catalyzed lacquer finish enhances wood¡¯s natural beauty, provides long-lasting protection from water, alcohol, stains, heat and cold.
Responsible Use of Resources
- Look for the “tree and checkmark” logo that means wood is Forest Stewardship Council-certified, sustainability forested and harvested.
All wood is not created equal
Wood differs, not only by species, but in quality. The color, character and consistency of any species of wood varies from tree to tree, log to log, and board to board. As you can see from the illustration, a log is composed of a layer of sapwood surrounding the tree’s heartwood. The lighter colored sapwood acts as the tree’s vascular system, transporting water and nutrients, while the darker, denser heartwood provides the tree’s rigid core. Although sapwood may occasionally be used as a design element, it is the grain, color and density of heartwood that distinguishes fine furniture.
At Berkeley Mills, we use only export grade and veneer quality wood, whose large timbers yield the wide, flawless planks desirable for table tops and other expansive surfaces. Each piece of furniture we make is unique because of the nature of the wood that shapes it —wood chosen for its ability to express and extend the design of the piece. Whenever possible, boards cut from the same tree are used to ensure the most harmonious color and grain patterns.
The dynamics of wood
Even after harvesting, wood retains a life of its own. It is a dynamic material, affected by light, air, weather and changes in the temperature. Over weeks, months and years, wood will change in color, responding to its surroundings. For example, the color of your cherry furniture will become deeper and richer as it lives in your home.
Wood as a renewable resource
Berkeley Mills is committed to ecologically sound manufacturing and business practices. Because wood is the very heart of our business, we do everything possible to support sustainable forestry and the responsible use of this precious resource. Wood from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forests and lumber companies is subject to strict “chain of custody” requirements from the moment the wood is cut through its delivery to a manufacturer and ultimately into the consumer’s hands. Berkeley Mills is proud to have been one of the first furniture companies in the United States to earn FSC-certification as a responsible link in this chain of custody (FSC license code FSC-C003164) Today, much of the wood we use comes from FSC-certified sources, and our certification, which is renewed annually through on-site audits, assures our customers that their purchase supports forestry that meets the highest standards for environmentally responsible harvesting.
Sofas and chairs are upholstered with our customers’ choice of fabric or leather. You may supply it yourself or choose from our extensive selection of fine quality upholstery fabrics and leathers.
Cushions employ a combination of down, feathers and polyurethane foam for optimal comfort, support and resiliency. Back cushions are constructed with a baffled tick filled with triple washed 25% down/75% feathers, the best combination for fluffiness, durability and resiliency. Seat cushions have a core of high-resiliency polyurethane foam, enveloped in baffled ticks filled with down and feathers. Downproof ticking permits removal of cushions from zippered upholstery covers.
Cushions are supported by a hardwood frame with woven webbing of commercial-grade Italian elastic polypropylene covered with polyfiber insulator and the chosen upholstery fabric. Unseen, this durable support replaces the springs found in traditional overstuffed furnishings and contributes to the sleek lines of Berkeley Mills furniture.
After assembly, furniture is finely sanded, sealed with lacquer, then re-sanded for a silken smooth finish before the final coat of lacquer is applied. Stains and other coloring processes are not used at Berkeley Mills, another reason why wood selection and the skillful harmonizing of grain and color are so important. Our unique clear lacquer finish does not obscure any of the wood’s natural beauty.
Our craftsmen apply an environmentally sound catalyzed lacquer finish that resists water, alcohol, stains, heat and cold. Extremely durable and nearly maintenance-free, it can be kept clean with a feather duster or damp cloth. While it equals the warmth, luster and feel of a hand rubbed oil finish, our highly resilient lacquer will not lose its sheen with age, nor will it allow the wood to dry out, as oil and wax finishes do.
All Berkeley Mills furniture can be ordered in cherry, Honduras mahogany or maple ¡ª other woods are available by special order. Special woods such as wenge, bubinga, birdseye maple, quilted maple, figured cherry, sapele pomele and ebony are used as accents.
Artisan-crafted hardware, much of it custom designed exclusively for Berkeley Mills, is hand forged or cast in solid metal, satisfyingly heavy and smoothly finished. Engineered for ease of use, each piece is chosen for its character and beauty, yet another detail among the myriad details that distinguish our furniture.
Each piece of furniture we make bears the craftsman’s signature, as well as the Berkeley Mills brand stamp.