Dating antiques joinery

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The early 1800s saw a lot of advancement in machinery for wood working and by the Civil War mechanized furniture factories were on line but the dovetail drawer joint was still a holdup.While the joint had been refined and perfected it was still too difficult to be made by a machine.I pulled the top drawer open about 3″, looked at the side of the drawer and felt the exposed bottom. That’s my wife’s private drawer.” Followed immediately by my wife’s reassuring, “Don’t worry.He doesn’t even see what’s inside the drawer.” And that was true.If you can feel slight, parallel ridges and hollows, the piece was hand planed, probably prior to the mid-19th Century.

I've included a brief list of references, if you want to begin studying on your own. One thing to determine is the utility of the furniture you're trying to date. If you can locate tool marks on a piece of exposed wood, you might have some clues to follow.

In addition, the wood used for the drawer sides and bottoms helps determine whether the furniture is American or European.

How a drawer is constructed and the woods used is revealing, but there are two important caveats. Seldom does one clue provide confirmation of anything.

I just wanted to date the piece by how the drawer was made.

Over the years of working on hundreds of pieces of antique furniture, I’ve developed a quick and fairly accurate system for dating and determining the origin of any piece of furniture containing drawers. Construction Drawer construction has changed several times in the last 200 years.

Before this innovation most furniture consisted of simple boxes called coffers or some type of open shelving arrangement and cabinets with shelves behind doors such as the old court cupboard.

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