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Cheap, with bonuses

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We recently bought some inexpensive furniture for my wife’s mom. Some of the drawers feature real dovetails, so it must be good furniture, right? Maybe; maybe not.

Sally and I have been working lately on moving her elderly mom up from Tennessee to an assisted-living apartment here in the Ohio Valley. Rather than move her old furniture, she’ll have new, and we’ve been tasked with getting it all in place before the move.

We had to stick to a specific budget, so we shopped carefully. And while the furniture was inexpensive production stuff, it looks nice and had a few surprises. The end tables, for example, had genuine dovetailed drawers. Sure, they were ugly machine-cut dovetails slathered with filler, but the drawers really are square and rock-solid. These aren’t the kind of dovetails I’d insist on if I were buying handmade furniture; heck, they’re not they kind I’d insist on if I were making them myself.

But the furniture is what it is, and it fits the budget, and it’s sturdy, and it looks really nice in Sally’s mom’s new apartment. But there’s no getting around that those pieces are what most of the readership here would call cheap [insert word of choice here].

When it comes to joinery, you don’t get much sturdier and stronger than dovetails, but does adding dovetails turn cheap [insert word of choice here] into fine furniture? Of course not, which is one of the reasons I’ve stated several times in the past here that dovetails aren’t necessarily the hallmark of fineness that many would have you think they are.

But you buy (or make) furniture for many reasons, using many criteria when judging its quality and fitness for use. In this case, the furniture is perfect for the intended use, and while the quality certainly hails from the quick-and-dirty region of production woodworking it’s far more attractive and useable than a lot that I’ve seen.

When taken on its merits then, the furniture is fine, even if it’s not fine furniture. And with that in mind those dovetails are a true bonus.

Till next time,


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