Dating antique dovetails

Here is an early example of machine-cut dovetails on a 1920's sideboard from a dining set: European cabinetmakers continued to produce hand-cut dovetails through the 1930's.

This over-view of the dovetailing techniques should easily help identification and dating of most furniture from the last 200 years.

There was resistance - in England, carpenters unions went on strike over the use of electric saws, fearing the end of their livelihoods.

Nevertheless, by the 1950's, power tools were used in almost all furniture construction across Great Britain.

As the dovetail joint evolved through the last one hundred thirty years, it becomes a clue for the age and authenticity of antique furniture.Hand cut dovetails were used to hold the sides of drawers together, but also to join the structural members of case furniture.Hand made screws and nails were relatively expensive and could rust and expand, sometimes cracking the wood they secured. Dovetails have great strength, holding pieces of wood in perfect alignment over long periods of time.Steam power, transferred by pulleys and leather belts, operated saws, carving machines and routers that could copy an original pattern exactly.These routers were ancestors of the electric precision tools of today, and could be used to rapidly cut a machined dovetail joint.

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