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Specifying Bespoke Furniture

“Dado height raised and fielded high quality oak panelling to walls with semi-matt clear lacquer finish all as dwg”.

The above is a typical example of a specification that we may receive from a designer, architect or quantity surveyor and to many, would appear to be a clear and precise description of what is required.  It is largely all that is required for a craftsperson to provide a price, however, there is a great deal of difference between what is meant and intended and what is literally correct. Below we have outlined a number of points to consider and incorporate in any specification.

Timber Quality and Grading:

Specify the timber quality based on accepted terms in the UK:

  • Prime (QSA) – Virtually flawless, best quality
  • Joinery (Firsts and Seconds) – Acceptable knots and sap
  • Character – Allows colour variations, sap, knots, and splits
  • Pippy – Lots of small knots (cat’s paw)

Oak Type and Origin:

Specify the oak type and origin:

  • American white oak – Less expensive
  • European Oak (English or French) – Generally preferred and more expensive
  • Discuss the preferred appearance considering growth location variations as there is considerable difference across Europe.

Grain Pattern:

Specify the desired grain pattern:

  • Rift sawn or un-figured quarter sawn for straight, unfigured oak
  • Figured quarter sawn for highly figured oak with prominent medullary rays
  • Crown oak for a more flowing grain pattern
  • Consider adding a picture to illustrate the preference.

Construction and Material: (Using Oak as an example)

  • Specify whether the panelling is solid oak, veneered, or a combination.
  • Discuss suitability based on design requirements, matching grains, inlays, marquetry, or environmental conditions (dry or humid environments).


  • Specify the desired finish:
  • Semi-matt clear lacquer
  • Confirm the sheen level percentage, e.g., 25% semi-matt.

“Dado height raised and fielded panels to match design intent and full-size moulding detail drawings. Solid timber frames and mouldings with veneered panels in Rift sawn prime quality French Oak finished with 25% semi-matt clear synthetic lacquer”.