Identifying Antique Furniture

Identifying Antique Furniture

When it comes to identifying antique furniture, there are certain characteristics of style and methods of construction that help in distinguishing original pieces from reproductions and fakes.

Antique Furniture Identification

The identification of antique furniture is a subject that covers a very broad area. It is also a subject that can seem overwhelming and confusing to someone with a new interest in antique furniture.

However, learning a few basic tips and tricks used by experienced antique collectors and dealers will give even a novice collector the general knowledge needed to identify a piece of antique furniture.

Tips for Identifying Antique Furniture

There are several things to look for when examining a piece of furniture that help to identify it as an antique.

  • Check for a signature or label from the furniture maker.
  • Make sure the piece is in proportion. For example, if the legs of the piece seem to be the wrong size or the top of the piece is out of balance with the lower portion, it is possible the furniture is a marriage. A furniture marriage occurs when two pieces, or sections, of furniture are joined together and the two are not originally from the same piece.
  • Check the construction of the joints.
    • Until the late 1600s handmade dowels or pegs held the mortise-and-tenon joints together and were slightly raised above the joints
    • In the 1700s glue was used on dovetailed joints. These types of joints became more refined throughout the 1700s and the first half of the 1800s.
    • In the 1860s the machine made Knapp joint was developed and is commonly called a half moon, pin and scallop and scallop and dowel
    • In the late 1800s a machine-made dovetail joint was perfected completely replacing the Knapp joint by 1900.
  • The wood for furniture pieces was hand sawn until the beginning of the 1800s. Visible saw marks up to that time will be straight. After that most wood was cut with a circular saw and any saw marks will be circular.
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