Dating antiques joinery

Boxy shapes with joined wood angles were connected by dovetailing, a fact that contributed to the intact state of the grave goods when the pyramids and burial chambers were excavated.

The massive horizontal stone lintels at Stonehenge were connected by dovetailing, more rounded than triangular.

A 17th-century Chinese canopy bed at the Victoria and Albert Museum is held together with dovetailing.

The use of the joinery technique stretches back into prehistory, but its utility is still relevant.

Becoming knowledgeable about antique furniture takes research, even if you are focusing on only one aspect of this wide-ranging subject.

It's easy to spot an antique by the drawers, because joints weren't machine-cut until about 1860.

Whether that tail is fat, skinny, symmetrical or used sparingly reveals a clue to the origins of the piece.

The suspension idea ranges from the simple runner in the case to support the drawer sides, to a slot cut in the side of the drawer to engage a runner (the Pilgrim “hung” drawer), to a guide added to the center bottom of the drawer to engage a runner, to the nylon roller and ballbearing suspensions found in modern manufactured furniture.Examining these joints helps determine the age of old furniture.It's called a "dovetail" joint because the flat-bottomed triangular shape of the wood insert looks like a dove's tail.When trying to identify antique furniture, dedicated antique hunters search for beautifully preserved pieces, armed with pins, magnifying glasses, spirit levels and all sorts of testing equipment.Other interior or home decorators tend not to take things so seriously but are still interested in items, history and authenticity.

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If it has only a few dovetail joints, with pins narrower than the dovetails, then the joint was made by hand.

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