Dating furniture dovetails

If rough surfaces, plane scrapes, and tool marks are evident inside the piece of furniture, or on the back or bottom surfaces, you're probably looking at a pre-1860 model.

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Some popular antiques are quite well documented and may be tied to a specific time period in history making an age determination quite simple. Adding to the complexity is the proliferation of copycat builders and modern furniture craftsmen who do an admirable job of cloning authentic antique furniture right down to the tool marks and date stamps.

Determining the age of antique furniture is the first step in establishing a proper valuation, as well as verifying that the piece is indeed an authentic furnishing from the era in question.

Tool marks and obvious signs of rough cuts are fairly typical with pieces more than 150 years old.

That said, it is important to realize that skilled craftsmen are building furniture by hand even today so you'll want to continue to investigate the age of the piece using at least one other method.

Lacquer has been applied to wood furniture for centuries, and if the piece you're inspecting claims to have the original finish, you may be able to date the piece quite easily. Once lacquer hits the century mark it tends to turn quite dark.

If your piece is seeing this darkening effect, you're safe to assume that the piece is at least 100 years old.

The problem is, 5-digit zip codes have only been around for about fifty years!

Often, manufacturers from 100 years ago would simply state “New York” or “Pennsylvania.” Sometimes they’ll denote the city in which it was built.

Screws that appear handmade and quite individual most likely help date the piece from the early 1700's to the mid to late 1800's.

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