Dating furniture by dovetail


Check the drawers for the first sign of age on antique furniture



As solid as dovetails, Knapp joint solidly dates antique furniture drawers

In an effort to determine the range of the age of a piece of furniture, we have the beginnings of a built-in time line if the piece has drawers. The concept of the modern chest of drawers as we know it, a case containing a series of more or less matching drawers, became a reality in the latter part of the 17th century.

Of course single drawers and combinations of drawers were made earlier but appeared usually as an adjunct to the lift top or dower chest which was the most common chest type in the that century. The most common storage facility of the era was the cupboard or court cupboard consisting of open shelves below doors which concealed more shelves. A drawer is a fairly difficult thing to build when you get right down to it.

It is a five sided box that must fit perfectly within a case a six-sided box and be removable on demand without binding or breaking either the drawer or the case. To do so it must incorporate some type of suspension mechanism to allow it to travel in and out of the case. The search for the answer to this question is the basis of our built in time line. The joint is then nailed either through the front or through the side. In many cases the nails are installed in cut outs in the drawer side so they do not protrude above the surface chatham dating sites impede the travel of the drawer.

This is typical construction of the 16th and 17th centuries, including Pilgrim drawers. However, this joint had two historical problems. Early dovetail construction sometimes featured only one pin and it was often nailed in place. Early Colonial 18th century dovetail joints featured three or four stubby dovetails and they dating furniture by dovetail glued, not nailed. By the Federal period late 18th furniiture early 19th century dovetails became finer and more precise until evolving into the five or six slender pins seen in mid 19th century Victorian furniture.

Dovetail joints are excellent joints but they take a long time to make by hand. From the mid 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century a series of experimental, machine made drawer joints appeared, including the Knapp joint and the finger joint but the winner was the machine made dovetail joint. This machine made joint features a series of identical dovetails cut in the drawer front and side and the cuts run the entire depth of the drawer side.

So what does all this tell us about the dating minsk of a piece? If we find a dating furniture by dovetail dovetail joint with only one or two dovetails does it mean we found an early 18th century piece? A good craftsman can still be found datiing make hand made joints. It means ny we have motivation to keep looking for other clues to confirm a date. On the other hand, if we find a machine made dovetail joint we know with pretty good assurance that it was made in the 20th century and our search for antiquity is over.

Send your comments, questions and pictures to Fred Taylor, P. BoxCrystal River, FL or info furnituredetective. For more information call or fax TAGS adviceantique furniturecountry furniturecupboarddesksfurniturefurniture companiesfurniture dealersFurniture Detectivefurniture termshow to antique furnitureoriginal dovetsilpatinarefinishingrepairtables.

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Enter your e-mail address to receive a free download of The Business of Antiquesan insightful guide to achieving success in the marketplace. You'll also be signed up to receive e-newsletters from Antique Trader and partners. Check the drawers for the first sign of age on antique furniture By: Fred Taylor May 26, The Practical Illustrated Guide to Furniture Repair and Restoration.

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