The kind of wood that is used has a lot of bearing on how long your furniture will last. It can be made of hardwood, softwood, or engineered wood. Generally speaking quality furniture is made out of hardwood coming from deciduous trees such as oak, maple, mahogany, teak, walnut, cherry and birch. The wood will be air-dried and then kiln dried to remove all the moisture. Coniferous trees such as pine, fir, redwood and cedar produce soft wood. It is possible to find good quality furniture in these woods also, but these woods are more prone to scratches and dents. Modern furniture is very rarely constructed of all wood. Plywood, or engineered wood is used extensively because it provides strength, and helps prevent splitting or warping. It can make for sturdy, long lasting and highly attractive furniture when used with high quality veneers.
The way a piece is constructed can contribute to its beauty; functionality and also how long it will last. The joinery and sturdiness of a piece will tell you a lot about its quality. Mortise and tenon, and dovetails are two of the oldest ways of putting together furniture, and also make for the strongest and best looking joints. Good joints can also have dowels or screws, but will never be stapled. Any glue used will not show outside the joint. Corner blocks add to the strength and stability of a piece. Back panels that face the wall are the generally attached with screws to help ensure the lateral stability. Backs and unexposed parts should be sanded smooth and well fitted. Drawers fit well and have glides to allow you to effortlessly move a drawer in and out of its station. They will also have stops to prevent a drawer from being pulled out or falling. Doors will close neatly be flush with the cabinet front, and good quality hardware will be used. Test for sturdiness, by trying to rock or jostle the piece. It should not squeak, twist or wobble. Check if it is level with the floor.
A quality finish involves sanding, staining, and finishing. Neglect at any of the stages can affect the overall quality of a piece. Sanding is the first step in the finishing process, and a good piece will be smooth so that when you run your hand over it there will be no rough patches. Inspect the finish from different angles to check for blotchiness or scratches. A good stain enhances the natural beauty of wood and adds color and character to the wood.