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Dating antique furniture nails
Wood will also show signs of oxidation and patination with prolonged exposure to air and light. These tips will get you started, but I encourage you to read and study further. This is a big topic to tackle and it will not be possible to cover many details in this short column. Oak joint stools, on the other hand, have been around for five hundred years.
By Bob Flexner Pages 54-56 A while back, my wife and I were visiting friends who wanted to show us their collection of antique furniture.
At one point we went into their bedroom and I headed directly for a very old-looking chest-of-drawers.
Hand-cut dovetails are the oldest and are usually easy to identify.
The size of the pins and tails is typically uneven, with the pins commonly narrower than the tails.
Also, clearly visible scribe marks and saw or chisel overcuts frequently remain on the wood.
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If you’re not sure by looking at the outside of the drawer, open it farther and look at the inside corner where overcuts are more likely to appear.On the other hand, machine-cut dovetails definitely establish that the furniture is no older than about 1895, when the dovetail-cutting machine was invented.Joinery Three clearly distinct drawer joints have been used on quality furniture: hand-cut dovetails, pin-and-scallop joints and machine-cut dovetails.Hand-cut dovetails appeared late in that century and for the next 80 years or so, dovetails were wide, stubby, and crude. By the end of the 1700s, dovetails became thin and delicate. If you find Phillips head screws throughout, you don't have an antique. If it is 1/32nd of an inch thick, it is Victorian or newer, as compared to the 17th and 18th Century 1/16" to 1/8" veneers.Mortise and tenon joints were also used in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. On the other hand, hand forged nails and screws with off-center slots and uneven threads can be taken from older furniture and used in a piece made yesterday. Learn to recognize the elements of different furniture styles.The use of square or oblong wooden pins that held in place by the shrinking of the wood was another joinery technique of that time. If you find a piece of furniture that seems to combine several styles, it is most probably not a period piece, but a later reproduction. Are all the parts original, or have there been replacements and repairs? Since wood is an organic material, it shrinks across the grain with age.Scalloped dovetails can be dated to the 1890s and were only used for a short time. You might think it's a modern material, but the Egyptian Pharaohs used laminated wood in furniture and it was used in England in the 1740s. You may not be able to see this with the naked eye, but if you measure a circular table top with the grain and then across the grain, there should be a difference if the table is an antique.Also important are style (including hardware), shrinkage, nails, screws, locks, the primary and secondary woods used, the type of finish, tell-tale tool marks, areas of wear and general appearance.Second, many clues aid only in establishing that the furniture isn’t older than a certain date.If you can feel slight, parallel ridges and hollows, the piece was hand planed, probably prior to the mid-19th Century.Construction techniques can assist you in dating furniture. In the 17th Century, butt and rabbet joints were used.