Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How do you tell if a chest of drawers is old or an "antique" reproduction?

Have you stumbled across a beautiful chest of drawers and been told that it’ s a true antique? Do you know how to tell how old something is?

On the chest, you will need to pull open the drawer and look at the joint where the front meets the sides. Do you see a joint that looks like a "dove's tail?” Is so, look closer — if the dovetail is a tight "V" shape it is an early antique. Perfectly cut and consistent dovetails are modern. Butt joints are used in primitives and poor reproductions.

Old American oak roll top desk
with hand carved dovetails

Victorian mahogany sideboard with
large and small hand carved dovetails

Very old oak linen press with
hand carved dovetails

Earlier made furniture such as Eastlake pieces date from the 1880s and have "spoon" carving on the front and sides of the piece and "pin and cove" dovetails joining the front and sides of the drawers.

Eastlake "pin and cove" dovetails

Eastlake chest with spoon carving

In the 1890s, American furniture began to be mass-produced and it was too time- consuming to hand cut the dovetails. So the "tail" and "pin" started to match precisely since they were being machine carved. However, European cabinetmakers continued to produce hand-cut dovetails through the 1930s.

You are invited to learn "how to tell if something is a true antique" on March 12 at the Buford Queen of Hearts at 1 pm. Al Carrato will be speaking to the public free of charge. Please RSVP at 678-714-0643, as seating is limited.

2 comments:

  1. GOOD MORNING, I WAS GIVEN AN OLD CHEST WITH THE SPOON-PIN AND COVE JOINTS- HOW DO I FIND OUT WHAT ITS WORTH?? JIM GIBBS 417-288-1713

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  2. I have an American chest of drawers that has a single groove in the sides of the drawers where the faces appeared to have been slide down on during construction. Since there's no nails, staples, or lack of grooves, yet there's no dovetails or slide keyholes, I'm having trouble figuring out how to date it. I should mention that ther is also a price sticker on it that says "26cents plus sales tax" and the finish sort of looks like a matte colored stain (sort of a mustard beige) with a little colorful hand-painted decoration detail. Can you give me an idea of how old it is?

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