Johathan Charles furniture

willis56October 11, 2007

I have been looking for a desk and other pieces for our study/den and saw some examples of Jonathan Charles tables and occasional pieces (but no desks) in a furniture outlet store. They were beautiful and seemed to be of good quality. Does anyone know about this furniture maker that would allow me to compare quality and pricing between J. Charles and other companies?

I would like something of good quality that will not fall apart or lose its finish. From reading these forum postings I have noticed the other makers that are considered high quality but nothing about Johathan Charles.

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One of my clients carries Jonathan Charles. They tend to be solid wood construction. The problem that I've seen is that the wood can be fairly wet when the piece is made, which is not unusual for offshore furniture. This results in shrinkage of raised panels, drawer bottoms, etc. This is supposed to happen and be accommodated for, but sometimes results in unfinished wood being exposed or twisting. Other than that, just the usual transit damage that happens to a lot of furniture.

My client has passed my comments on to the owners of the company and they are working with their suppliers on these issues, so they may be addressing them by now. The owner actually solicited comments so they do have a desire to improve quality.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 7:02PM
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Thank you for the information. Do you know of any other makers that would have similarly styled furniture but without the problem of shrinking wood?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 8:59PM
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I can't seem to think of all my questions at once, so here are more. How does Emerson et Cie compare with J. Charles. Also, to kmealy, how did J. Charles remedy the shrinking situation? And how long ago was that?

Does anyone else have experience with this company?

Thanks for helping.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 10:42AM
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I would not avoid Jon. Charles; just be sure to check it over and have it touched up prior to delivery. That was probably 6-12 months ago. Given that my client usually orders a container at a time, it can take that much time to get ordering, production and shipping through the system, so I don't know that I've seen anything built since then or not.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 10:09PM
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Interesting idea about the wood being wet during manufacturing kmealy, Almost all wood in Vietnam is imported usually from the US= manufactured then shipped back to the US. The wood is always kiln-dried to about 11%, but some suppliers in VN buy logs then kiln-dried then to even lower to 7 to 8%, this manytimes can cause problems. If you are buying casegoods from a SE Asian manufacture, try to find one that has many years of experience in this area to reduce the likelyhood of this kind of problems.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 12:21PM
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Very helpful and interesting comments. It's not that I have my heart set on this furniture, I just saw it in the store and thought it was nice. How long has this company been in business? Are there other similar options that would be less questionable in terms of materials and/or workmanship? I haven't had a chance to price Hickory White or see it in person, but would it be a good choice? How might they compare in price and quality to J. Charles? I don't think the outlet where I saw the Jonathan Charles pieces is a dealer for Hickory White.

Thanks for all the comments.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 4:12PM
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I have been asking about Jonathan Charles furniture in a previous posting. How about FFDM? Is this comparable, etc.? Is it good quality? I have not priced it yet so I don't even know what price range to think about. Any help would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 4:21PM
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I don't know much about Jon. Charles internals.

Below is a link to a recent editorial. See the comments, especially those relating to EMC (equilibrium moisture content) -- the point where wood neither absorbs nor gives off moisture for a given humidity and temperature.

I had a conversation with a factory rep today (from a different furniture co.), he said you can walk into some factories and see one line producing furniture for any number of companies. You can pick items from their line and call them your own, send over designs, oversee operations and probably a number of other options. To me, it sounded no different than tool manufacturers in Taiwan that have been doing this for several decades. Some times the only difference between Company A's offering and Company B's is the color of paint and the type of switch.

Here is a link that might be useful: Willing to Fight for Your Market Share?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 6:40PM
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kmealy, Thank you for the article. All of these followups have opened my eyes to the benefits of reading about a subject outside of my expertise before making purchases and not judging on good looks and price alone. I plan to make every effort to find out about manufacturers, particularly new ones, in or out of the US. Such helpful and enlightening information. Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 9:32AM
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The factory rep yesterday pointed out that 7 years ago, 11% of furniture sold came from China. Today that number is 60%. I do not think that included the others -- Malaysia, Indonesia, and Viet Nam, all furniture producers.

Many of the US name plates have gone offshore with all or part of their production. Some US names have been sold to Chinese enterprises.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 11:28AM
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This is a late response to this thread -but wanted to clarify and correct a couple of points. Firstly - I work for Jonathan Charles Furniture in the UK and Europe so know a little about this subject!
Jonathan Charles furniture is made in Vietnam in our own factory. With the exception of a small number of picture frames, we don't make for anyone else nor do they make for us. The whole process is undertaken in our factory - we even have our own foundry for making the brass furniture.
Jonathan Sowter - the English cabinet maker who founded the company - has very high standards of craftmanship and this is conveyed in our furniture. A great deal of attention is paid to the detail, and although we do try to stay true to period pieces, if we can improve on a design then we will. This is true in the case of drawer liners, a part of furniture that often illustrates the problems of high humidity and a problem for all South East Asia manufacturers who export to temperate climates. Jonathan Charles drawer liners are made from American White Oak - and we made the base so that it would 'float' - ie., was not fixed and could move over a period of time as necessary. This, however, did not completely solve the problem of expansion and contraction so we now lay a high quality oak veneer on to multi-density fibre board on the drawer base. This has stopped any movement and the result is a more reliable piece of furniture.
One other point I would like to clarify is regarding the woods we use. Whilst we do import timber, such as the Americn White Oak, most of our hardwood is in fact Acacia sourced in Vietnam. This is grown on sustainable plantations where it takes between eight and twelve years to mature. We also use many wonderful veneers, all sourced from certified suppliers - one of whom even supplies veneers to top motor manufacturers including Rolls Royce.
I can say in all confidence that in buying a piece of Jonathan Charles furniture you are not only buying something that is pleasing to look at, but also something that is hand-crafted with care and that will last for many generations.

Here is a link that might be useful: Jonathan Charles Furniture

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 7:40AM
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What type of finish is applied to the furniture after it has been stained (e.g., varnish, shellac, resin, polyurethane, catalytic laquer)?
Thank you.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 5:55PM
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I am looking around for a partners desk, and found this old thread. The mahogany partners desk made by Jonathan Charles looks very interesting (item #493198). I was wondering, is this particular desk made of Acacia solid wood, with crotch mahogany veneer on the top? What type of joints is used? Is there a link to their furniture construction method?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 4:25PM
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Re finishing - we generally use a nitro cellulose finish as this better reflects the old shellac finish of antiques. The finishing process is a combination of spray and hand finishes.
Concerning construction - we use the same methods that have been used for generations - dovetail joints on drawers, mortise and tenon for key structural components. We wouldn't usually veneer on to solid wood any more than any other modern-day manufacturer, as the wood is prone to movement, unlike a reconstituted board which gives guaranteed results. Any visible non-veneered parts are made from solid acacia, and drawer linings from American white oak. The partners desk uses a significant quantity of very beautiful mahogany veneers, as well as satinwood crossbanding and hand-cast brass handles from the Jonathan Charles foundry. To add to my earlier post of March '09, and to confirm other comments, the Jonathan Charles factory does now manufacture for a handful of other quality manufacturers - including some very well known brand names. Jonathan Charles' furniture quality remains exceptional. For an overview of manufacturing methods please visit:

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 11:35AM
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You may want to try looking at Theodore Alexander for similiar products; a little more pricy but still has the same look. Maitland-Smith is another good company. Be sure to have your sales person check stock availability as these can have a long wait for the order to arrive if not in stock in the US or in the overseas warehouses. If the item has to be produced the wait can be 6 months or longer for the item to be produced & imported.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 12:01PM
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