What kind of materials do you use in your furniture?

Most of our furniture is made from wood veneers over a man made material called MDF, (medium density fiberboard). MDF is strong, stable and very smooth, so thin veneers lay perfectly flat and finish well. Because it's dimensionally stable, we have a great deal of freedom to design furniture with large panels, both flat and curved.

Sometimes we use plywood covered with veneer when we want to reduce weight. Plywood is lighter than MDF, but it is not as smooth which can lower finish quality. Plywood warps more readily than MDF, so we have to be careful to support doors and panels when we use it.

Finally, we use solid wood. Some designs are almost all solid wood. Some have almost none. Mostly hardwoods are used as trim and as protection at the edges of tables and desks where it's strength and durability make it a first choice. We use what's appropriate to the design. Solid wood is fairly light and very strong, but it is unstable. Wood expands and contracts constantly in response to changes in humidity. This movement must be allowed for in designs because it is impossible to stop. Our frame and panel designs allow for wood movement by trapping large wood panels in wood frames. The panels can float in the frames as humidity changes. The frames also hold the panels flat and help prevent warping. Solid wood construction uses a huge amount of expensive and sometimes rare hardwoods compared with veneer construction. It is very expensive.

Why is plastic laminate construction more expensive than wood?

Labor is more expensive than materials. To make custom plastic laminate furniture, first we build it out of MDF and then each surface has to be covered with laminate and then hand trimmed. The extra time is reflected in the cost.

For simple applications like on table tops or lectern work surfaces, there is no cost penalty.

What is Veneer?

Veneer is wood sliced very thin. Veneer manufacturers take an entire log and use a giant knife (14+ feet long) to cut the log into slices about as thick as a business card. The dried slices are kept together in order and are referred to as a flitch. The log can be cut different ways to change the way the wood grain looks when it is glued down to a panel. We use mostly plain sliced veneer. Some other common cuts are quarter sawn and rift cut.

What is Plastic Laminate?

Plastic Laminate is a sandwich of different materials laminated together to produce a sheet of material that can be glued to a substrate. The visible layer is often a paper that is printed in a printing press to look like wood or stone. The top surface layer is a clear plastic material that protects the layers below. Plastic laminate comes in hundreds of surfaces and colors. It is best used as work surfaces because it is very scratch resistant. Laminates are brittle and can crack if struck.

What is Melamine?

Melamine is a kind of thermoset (heated), plastic resin that is very durable and heat resistant. It is used to make many industrial products and it is applied as a coating directly on MDF ( medium density particleboard is what we use as a substrate for most of our products). Because we can buy MDF already coated with a finish that looks like either wood or solid colors, we can produce a high quality product that does not need finishing. That provides a substantial savings that we pass on to our customers. Most of our Quick Ship products are available in a melamine finish. There's a ten year warranty on all of our melamine products.

Why do I have to buy Marshall Furniture products through a dealer?

We depend on our dealers to bring us business and to support our furniture after the sale. If you need a door adjusted in San Francisco, we can't fly a cabinetmaker there from Chicago to do it. We have an agreement with our dealers that all business goes through them and we have honored that agreement for over 30 years.

What's the difference between a lectern and a podium? Also dais, pulpit, rostrum…?

A lectern is a place to hold a book or papers at a comfortable height during a lecture, speech or sermon. It comes from the Latin for "to read".

A podium is a platform to stand on with or without the lectern. Podium comes from the Latin word for foot.

A dais, from discus in Latin, is also a raised platform or stage (often round or oval) to place chairs or a lectern on. It's usually used when there is more than one person on the stage at the same time.

Pulpit is the Latin word for platform or stage.

In the ancient Roman Forum, a raised platform for speaking to the assembled crowd was decorated with the bows of ships taken in battle. The bow (beak) of a ship in Latin was a rostrum. A rostrum is now a synonym for a dais, podium or pulpit.