By Fred Taylor When you read the catalog for an auction that will be presenting some genuine antique furniture, it’s always interesting to read the descriptions. And it doesn’t have to be a 200-year-old antique chest for the hardware to make a difference. Since changing or altering hardware is one of the quickest and cheapest ways of improving the look of an otherwise-bland piece, the pulls are always suspect, especially if they look really good.Some of the most alluring will describe a piece of furniture as having “original finish” or “original brasses.” That’s a real selling point when looking at a chest of drawers that might be 200 years old and think that those brass pulls have been there undisturbed for that whole time. It could be a pretty nice Colonial Revival chest or desk or dresser, in excellent condition, that catches your fancy. Early 18th century hardware was cast from molten brass using molds made of sand.Dovetail joints are strong and require skill to produce, so they’re generally a sign of a well-made piece.
The Cabinet Makers tools always leave clear clues as to the period when the furniture was made.
For example, modern planes and Period planes work differently and leave completely different scars, likewise Period saw-marks are unevenly parallel compared to modern saw-marks which are identically parallel or radial.
Old nails were handmade, square and often had beaten heads and were generally uneven in appearance; whilst modern nails (post circa 1880) are mass produced and uniform.
Look for a blackened area of wood around corroded iron nails.
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.
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.If you have a worn old dresser or rickety heirloom chair on your hands, you may be thinking of refinishing it yourself.Older mass-produced pieces whose origins fall somewhere between 18 are ideal candidates for refinishing.Construction techniques can assist you in dating furniture. In the 17th Century, butt and rabbet joints were used.A single piece of antique furniture is more than a collection of nails, boards, and wood stain.The backs of this type of hardware were often left with the impression of the sand while the faces were polished.