Dating furniture by nails

If a joint was dovetailed by hand, it has only a few dovetails, and they aren't exactly even; if it has closely spaced, precisely cut dovetails, it was machine-cut.Handmade dovetails almost always indicate a piece made before 1860. It's easy to spot an antique by the drawers, because joints weren't machine-cut until about 1860.If it has only a few dovetail joints, with pins narrower than the dovetails, then the joint was made by hand.Fine old pieces are often French-polished, a variation of the shellac finish.A lacquer or varnish finish is a sure sign of later manufacture.

Exact symmetry is another sign that the piece was machine-made.On handmade furniture, rungs, slats, spindles, rockers, and other small-diameter components are not uniform.Examine these parts carefully; slight differences in size or shape are not always easy to spot.Real antiques and many reproductions are extremely valuable, but there are also many imitations.If you aren't sure an antique is really antique, pay for an expert opinion.

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