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How to Tell the Age of Antique Furniture

Learning how to tell the age of antique furniture is not a precise art, although there are some signs of age that show up in most pieces of furniture. The construction of the furniture, the nails or screws, handles, hardware and how the wood is joined together all help to determine the age of the piece. A true antique is at least one hundred years old. Check out these tips on figuring out the age of furniture.

  1. First: For round tables, measure the tops

    Antique wood tables are not completely round. This is because the wood shrinks, but it only shrinks in one direction, resulting in an oval shape. Measure the table across, from the bottom to the top of the surface, then from side to side. The two measurements should have a noticeable difference if the table is old.

  2. Second: Examine the nails and screws

    Examine the nails used in making the piece of furniture. If you cannot take any of the nails out, use a magnifying glass and carefully check the head of the nail. If the head is worn thin and not perfectly square, this could indicate that it was made prior to 1820. Also check out the screws. If the slot is off center, it is possible that the screw was handmade; you must take out the screw and look closely at it to determine this. Handmade screws were utilized up until about 1815.

  3. Third: Take a look at the hinges and handles

    Check out the way in which the hinges and handles were attached to the piece. Does the kind of nail or screw match with the period the style of hardware to which it corresponds? Hardware on furniture is a handy way to estimate the age of the piece, at least if it is the original hardware. Look closely around the handles. Years of skin coming into contact with the handles and the wood should result in a patina on the areas.

  4. Fourth: Look at the drawer construction

    In a piece of cabinetry, take out a drawer to observe how the wood is joined together. If there is one big dovetail, the piece could date to the early eighteenth century. Cabinetmakers in the nineteenth century used many smaller dovetails to fit the sides of drawers together.

  5. Fifth: Inspect the underside or backside

    Take a flashlight and look underneath the furniture or behind drawers. If the saw marks appear circular, the furniture was constructed after 1850. If the saw marks run straight, a hand saw was used, meaning it was made prior to 1850. For a chair, examine the bottom of the feet, which should show a great deal of wear. Rungs should also show wear and staining.