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FRAME CONSTRUCTION

The life of a piece of upholstered furniture begins with its frame. Lasting furniture must be constructed of the proper kinds of wood that have been processed with quality in mind. Additionally, the frame needs to be well reinforced using any of several age-old techniques of joining, blocking, fastening and doweling.

Wood

You may never see the wood used to create the frame of your sofa, chair or ottoman. But, you really should know whether a hardwood or softwood was used. Avoid frames made solely from softwood because it won’t be sturdy enough to hold the joinery that is required for good quality furniture. A combination of soft and hardwoods can be used and quality plywood at least 25mm thick. A frame made from hardwood is best but often makes it too expensive. The tight graining of Hardwoods allows for dowels and screws to be set securely so they won’t come loose over time Hardwood laminates (or plywood) are often used for blocks and braces because laminates are actually stronger than solid wood in these applications.

You also want to know that the wood in your furniture has been kiln-dried. Kiln drying is an extra process in which the wood is heated in an industrial oven to yield several benefits:

  • It removes excess sap and moisture, which can cause frames to warp.
  • It prevents wood from absorbing any moisture in the future that may cause the frame to swell, shrink or change shape, which can loosen joints and fastenings.
  • It minimizes bending, torquing, mildewing and rotting during the life of the piece.

Joints, Blocking and Doweling

The next step in creating great furniture is assembling the wood into a sturdy frame. Generally, the more rigid the frame the better, because a loose frame can crack or fail. Several craftsman processes can be used to create a good, strong frame. A variety of woods and laminates are used for joining, blocking and doweling and sometimes several techniques are used.

Joints are the places where one piece of frame wood intersects to another part of the frame at an angle. Joints must be reinforced with blocks or dowels for extra support or the frame will be susceptible to loosening over time.

Blocking refers to the process of placing additional blocks of wood behind or diagonal to joints and corners for support in areas where the furniture craftsman believes there may be greater stress. Blocks provide lateral support and a larger area for screws and fasteners to set wood elements securely. This extra bracing at stress points contributes to the lasting integrity of the frame. Doweling will add even more strength to the joint.

Good furniture should be heavy because quality techniques contribute to furniture weight. Quality materials and processes result in long lasting furniture worthy of passing on for generations.

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