Most handmade pieces will show some irregularities to the surface such as minor nicks indicative of a hand plane being used to smooth out the wood, and this is sometimes even more evident on the back than on the finished front surfaces.
Most machine made pieces date after 1860, according to art historian Lori Verderame (also known as Dr.
Other good sources are secondhand stores, household auctions, and garage sales.
With furniture, as with anything else, one person's junk is another another's treasure.
See our navigation at left to find information on the various forms and styles of antique chairs.
Due to the sheer number of chair styles, we have chosen only the more popular and collectible items.
Lori) so if the piece you’re examining is perfectly finished without shallow cuts being evident, this clue points to it being made in the late 1800s or beyond.
Smaller “matching” elements, such as wooden drawer knobs, chair spindles, or feet on a variety of objects, may have slight differences in the shape if they were hand crafted prior to 1860 or so.
Under William and Mary, chair design was greatly influenced by the Huguenot designer Daniel Marot.
Examining these elements individually, as well as furniture pieces in their entirety, will help you learn to correctly date them.
Looking at the bottom or back of a piece, or inside its doors and drawers, can provide important clues about whether or not a piece of old furniture was machine cut or crafted by hand.
(You can judge this by noting the veneer edges on the backs of chest tops, for instance, or wherever bits of veneer have broken away.) Modern veneers are thin, with every slice exactly the same width.
Antique Period table pedestals are often reinforced with a hand-hammered metal disk or a tri-part metal strap where the legs join.
It's easy to spot an antique by the drawers, because joints weren't machine-cut until about 1860.
If it has only a few dovetail joints, with pins narrower than the dovetails, then the joint was made by hand.
Looking at the joinery, or the way a piece of antique furniture is put together, will provide many clues that help in determining the age.
But there are a number of other factors to consider as well, including the tools that were used to craft a piece and what the individual components look like.
Until 1800, all the antique mirror glass in America was imported.
Antique glass is thin (less than 1/8 inch thick), variably wavy, and somewhat gray in color.