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How Dry is Dry?

Don't let them tell you otherwise - why cracked wood is a profitable choice, and not a natural feature of handmade furniture.

Big-box furniture literature usually includes something along the lines of "cracks in the assembly joints or in the wood itself... [do] not affect the structural integrity,"* or "due to the hand-built nature of our furniture, measurements may vary by one to two inches."**

Needless to say, this is not a good sign. In fact, it's marketingese for "your furniture may break a bit, don't @ me, bro". When you're spending thousands of dollars, that should translate to a cost-per-use/day that makes sense. Language like this is hidden, delicately phrased and designed to cover the company's a** in the likely event that you realize the furniture quality does not, in fact, match the price.

Coming down off the soapbox now. Here at BFA, we design and build furniture that lasts for generations, and not just if it sits there untouched. That process always starts with the best material, unprocessed, other than a drying regimen. After all, Boulder is technically in the high desert, and water, whether in our rivers or raw materials, matters here (and everywhere).

There are two ways to dry wood, and they have equal merit in the workshop: air-dry or kiln-dry. Air-drying takes (much) longer, but it can retain some of the best natural color in certain species, including the purples in Walnut. If you're doing it yourself, a good rule of thumb is one year per inch of thickness. A well-secured tarp and nonporous floor is a minimum, while a climate-controlled space like a garage is ideal.

Nearly all of our wood is dried in a kiln, just like pottery. With rare exception, our raw slabs come from solar kilns, which require little to no energy consumption and can operate off the grid. Other kiln methods include dehumidification and vacuum, but these require a lot of energy. Kiln-drying in a dry climate is the only way to ensure your hardwood furniture is stable - the material won't crack, warp or split over time, and imperfections are secure.

Furniture built in a dry climate and finished with a flexible seal (read: oil) can move effortlessly into a humid one - it will expand to accomodate the additional environmental moisture, but it won't break. If your furniture is built overseas, especially in Southeast Asia, it's coming with the humidity of its place of origin. Naturally, as it acclimates to Colorado, it dries out, causing splits, warping and cracking.

Long story short (too late), the dryness of the wood used in your furniture directly affects its longevity. No finish does better over time than oil, and precision throughout a deliberate design and build process should be expected, not exceptional.

*Direct quote from Restoration Hardware's care sheet

**Direct quote from Arhaus' furniture measuring guide

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