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The differences of Oak?

Posted by Paul Zhang on

One of the most popular questions that I get asked when customers call me after visiting our web store after crawling the Internet looking at especially oak furniture is " what's the difference between it all? "

Well that's actually so many differences it's quite unreal these days and I will try and explain here what they are. The golden rule of thumb though apart from in our web store is the price that gives it away but of course we know the differences and what they are because we are experts in the field of cabinet furniture as well as knowing the manufacturing history of the product.

Now firstly here's how many changes and why they have come about as the oak furniture fashion has evolved, these days you may see a wardrobe advertised as oak but in reality only a small percentage of the product actually is!

Now what happened was this, in the retail industry we had all been retailing pine furniture for many years as it was the vogue. As that fazed out in around 2001/2002 oak furniture made in the far east started to come on the scene.

This saw the product at the start a really " high value " and some of the first importers of oak furniture were shipping in the products and wholesaling them such as a standard double wardrobe out to the retail trade at £400, once the retailer/store owner applied his margin, the retail ticket price would be in the region of £799-£899 for the item dependent on which store.

Now as the fashion kicked in , more and more wholesalers set off to the far east to import themselves and more oak furniture factories were born. For example factories changed production, an example being one that we first dealt with used to manufacture stair components and when seeing the boom of furniture and the market share switched production and starting the manufacture of oak furniture.

In those initial days most people, both wholesalers and retailers wanted quality product, remember it was pre- recession era too and more people could afford the higher quality products that we made 100% solid oak throughout each unit, as well as the manufacturer using the highest cleanest grades of timber.

So as a fine example - take the Lisbon collection within our web store it's manufactured in 100% solid Grade A North American White oak. This includes in the unit solid oak backs and drawer bases. Everything made from the same timber qualities, basically building a cabinet that would last a life time.

 So here we go below are two drawers from a picture taken in the factory that makes the Lisbon oak range and the Dalian Rustic Oak range. These images are of the Lisbon Oak range drawers.

Drawer from Lisbon Bedside chest.

Drawer from a Lisbon Wardrobe.

Now firstly look at the base of the drawer, as you can see its manufactured in the same American White oak timber as what's used to manufacture the complete unit. Forming a solid oak drawer base that will simply last a life time. As well as the drawer base you will notice the drawer box construction, the front,the sides and the back- again manufactured in complete solid oak.

As well as the drawer construction the Lisbon Oak collection has the same process to all of the backs of its units too, completing a totally solid oak piece of furniture. No expense spared manufacturing solid furniture of the highest quality to last a life time and more!

Anyway back to the differences and how they came about, well it all comes down to high street rivalry as stores compete with each other.

So as the oak fashion sweeps the nation, more wholesalers and importers want to be seen as cheaper than their rival, so how do they do this?  they can't simply buy the timber cheaper as the same qualities cost the same amounts from the North American Mills. Labour costs too are basically the same, so the only way is to use lesser grade timbers with wilder grains. These timbers then instead of using the highest quality American White Oak, see the cheaper forms and lesser quality Russian and Chinese oak come into play. The problem with these grades of timber is the quality is poorer and leaves not such a good looking piece of furniture as well as a rougher finish.

But further more evolving was the actual swing to using alternative timbers and veneers whilst still using the claim of the product being oak furniture, simply dropping the term 100% solid oak.

By using lesser timbers and alternative timbers the price obviously comes down as cheaper timbers are used, now of course some consumers don't mind and some just don't understand what they are actually purchasing.

So I'm going to give you some prime examples, and how deceiving images and pictures on the web especially can be as retailers try to basically pass off their products and attempt to make themselves look cheaper than they actually are. What I'm now going to do is go to google search type in oak furniture and select a few advertised products for examples.

Firstly here's a very prime example, I have first selected a store in Bristol.

As you see they advertise an oak Nevada bedside cabinet for £129, supposedly reduced £20 to £109. Whilst " claiming" the RRP  is £199, which of course is complete nonsense.

Now the construction of this beside is a perfect example of what we are talking about. The unit itself has hardly any oak content in it all. The drawer bases and backs are made from the lowest grade PLYWOOD - the sides to the units are a cheap veneer, the drawers aren't even dovetailed and the drawer box construction is made of a cheap Chinese pine. Finally the sizes of the range are smaller too meaning less timbers & veneers used.

You will see this collection of furniture in many stores across the UK and as well as on the web.

The history of this range, is that the retailers purchase it from an importer known as Flexi load and if they buy a container load they pay for the unit £50. So in effect this retailer in Bristol whilst using this bedside as a loss leader is actually doubling his money whilst trying to form the impression he retails " oak" bedsides for £109 in a sale, that should be £199!

Naturally this is nonsense - now just to promote what you get from us here at BIL is the following using the Lisbon Oak Range as an example.

Lisbon Oak 3 drawer 100% solid oak bedside £78 direct from the factory.

Manufactured in North American Grade A White Oak, with all drawers fully solid including backs and bases and fully dovetailed drawers.

Compared to the Bristol retail outlet selling this,

Veneered sides & Drawer fronts, pine drawer box construction, plywood drawer bases and backs, non dovetailed, claiming it to be a reduced £109 in the sale.

Ironically the retailer in question does retail some higher quality furniture, in fact he does retail the Lisbon Oak Range but under a different name of Exeter New Oak. As you can see

but naturally he has his retail margin on the product and it costs from him £139, to which you only play for it direct from the factory in Dalian China on our web store for £78 saving £61 just on one small bedside, but that's the beauty of dealing and ordering direct from the factory.

So there is a fine example albeit just on a bedside cabinet of the differences in oak furniture.

Now there's nothing we don't know about oak furniture, and we describe on our web store the actual construction of all ranges and collections giving you peace of find as well as the factory direct prices. We have nothing to hide. If you need any further advice on any item you are thinking of purchasing needless of its on our web store or another web page you may be considering, drop us a line at with a link or image and we will be more than happy to advise and give you the full correct information on what you are looking at.




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