Dating antique dovetails


A scribe line was made by the Cabinet Maker when marking out the dovetail joints, it is not always present by any means but can help to re-inforce an opinion.

Dovetail joints, named due to their resemblance to the bird’s tail, were first used as far back as ancient Egyptian times where they are found on the furniture entombed with mummies.

Older mass-produced pieces whose origins fall somewhere between 18 are ideal candidates for refinishing.

With a few exceptions, they don’t have high value as antiques but are solidly made and can last for many years.

Small angled cuts were made, followed by careful cleaning down by a sharpened chisel on both sides to avoid splintering. As cabinet makers refined their skills the joints became smaller and neater.

If you have a worn old dresser or rickety heirloom chair on your hands, you may be thinking of refinishing it yourself.

These are easy to spot as they are not nearly as fine as the hand cut dovetails.

Dovetails act as a fine display of skilled craftsmanship by cabinetmakers.

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Dovetail joints are strong and require skill to produce, so they’re generally a sign of a well-made piece.

Always look for worn components in the right places, take your time to check the piece carefully and look for signs of use on the base of the feet, drawer runners, chair rail stretchers and any area of potential wear. Email: [email protected] normal opening hours are Monday To Friday 8.30am - 5.00pm and Saturday 10.00am - 4.00pm.

Are the 'Pin' and the'Tail' a different size and shape from each other, if they are identical then the joint may have been manufactured by an automated process.

Early glue was made from animal products ( including hide, bones and fish) melted in a glue kettle and mixed with water. Importantly this glue is revesible and therefore antique 'friendly', as opposed to modern PVC glue which is neither.

So look for signs of crystallized glue, also loose joints can indicate that reversible glue was originally used.

You may also discover a real antique or two -- pieces handed down through the family for generations.

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