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Dating furniture styles

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Look for age clues in the hardware used. On the other hand, hand forged nails and screws with off-center slots and uneven threads can be taken from older furniture and used in a piece made yesterday. Check for the thickness of veneers. Old veneer could not be cut thin. Learn to recognize the elements of different furniture styles.

If you find a piece of furniture that seems to combine several styles, it is most probably not a period piece, but a later reproduction. Do the proportions and size appear to be correct? Are all the parts original, or have there been replacements and repairs? Date an object from its youngest feature. Since wood is an organic material, it shrinks across the grain with age.

You may not be able to see this with the naked eye, but if you measure a circular table top with the grain and then across the grain, there should be a difference if the table is an antique. On turned parts of furniture, such as chair legs, use calipers to take measurements to check for shrinkage. Antiques will show evidence of use and normal wear and tear.

Wood will also show signs of oxidation and patination with prolonged exposure to air and light. These tips will get you started, but I encourage you to read and study further. You might want to start with the references below. Books Butler, Joseph. ISBN Jenkins, Emyl. Crown Publishers. Video Bivins, John. Authenticating Antique Furniture. Pilaster Productions, Charleston, NC. Join our email list to receive the latest estate sales dates, addresses, and directions delivered right to your inbox.

How can you tell the age of a piece of furniture? Kaye, Myrna. Fake, Fraud, or Genuine? Weinhagen, Robert, Jr. Assume Nothing. Get Notified of Our Estate Sales Join our email list to receive the latest estate sales dates, addresses, and directions delivered right to your inbox. We do not sell, share, or otherwise allow others the use of our distribution list. Follow Follow Follow Follow. However, machine-made evidence does give you a better picture of when the piece of furniture could not be from.

It can be difficult distinguishing the type of wood or finish used on a furniture piece, but these are important clues. Certain types of woods were favored during different furniture periods. For example, oak was primarily used in furniture made prior to After , mahogany and walnut were very popular. Moving into the s, maple and cherry showed up in fine furniture manufacture quite often.

Many Victorian furniture manufacturers used mahogany and rosewood through the late s. Then, around , oak became popular again. The type of wood used is not an exact indicator of age, but when you tie in the other factors like style and construction technique, you start to get a better idea of the date of the piece. Original upholstery materials like silk, wool, or cotton were spun and woven into a variety of damasks, satins, and brocades with many different patterns.

A wide variety of materials and fabric designs were favored for upholstery during different periods. Schwartz is an upholstery guide that can help you decipher the styles that align with furniture periods. Closely review the screws. Screws were not made completely by machine until So if you find a furniture item using screws that have completely rounded shafts, pointed ends, and perfectly finished heads with matching cuts much like a screw you would purchase today , the piece likely dates to the midth century or later.

Screws made from about through the mids were partially machine-made giving the threading a more even appearance. But the heads were still finished with hacksaws to add the groove to fit a screwdriver, so no two are exactly alike. The first screws were crafted during the s by blacksmiths using square nail stock that was heated and pounded until it was somewhat round.

The tips were blunt and each one was unique. If you find these hand-finished screws in furniture, investigate other aspects of the pieces to see if they appear to match the screws in age. One similarly-dated element is brass hardware.

Early 18th-century hardware was cast from molten brass using molds made of sand. This hardware often has inclusions or marks left behind by grains of sand or odd colors from impurities. The backs of the hardware were often left with these pockmarks, while the outward-facing surfaces were polished. Early 19th-century brass also has a rough texture, finish, and threading.

From the s up until the Eastlake period during the s, brass hardware fell out of favor in furniture manufacture and was sparsely used.


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Take note of the shape of the screws used to hold the furniture together. Are they tapered and pointed with smooth grooves, or are the ends cut and the slots offset? Any combination of these features can help place the age of the furniture. Nails are also a strong indicator of age, as cut nails weren't replaced in construction until the s.

Examine any locks and look for file marks or any signs of irregularity, which would indicate something that was handmade and therefore probably older. Check out the condition of the finish on the exterior as well as the drawers.

Look for areas that have been worn down or replaced. Lastly, compare the design of the furniture to other pieces from the same period. Glaring differences are suspect, and a signal that this particular piece might not be what it seems. Type keyword s to search. The slot still had to be cut by hand with a hacksaw. Country furniture made with these screws can easily be dated to the ten-year period The Mercer library contains materials on both machine made screws and methods of cutting screws by hand.

In , cast iron latches became available to cabinetmakers. After the introduction of the cast iron latch, most cabinetmakers used this new feature in place of the little wooden turnstile that had been used for centuries. In the South and Midwest, hand-cast brass latches were in use before These early latches were inlaid into cabinet doors rather than being attached to the surface, as were the later cast iron latches.

Dealers who specialize in country and primitive furniture have depended on the above methods plus the study of nails for dating their antiques. Many dealers feel that the technological system is superior to the stylistic system. Furniture styles linger for years. New technologies, because they bring cheaper prices or faster methods, are accepted quickly — usually within a year or two. The Dating of Old Houses, a paper prepared by Dr. Henry C. Mercer, contains photographs, drawings, and patent information on nails, hinges, screws, hardware, planing machines, etc.

The screw above was handmade. The slot in the top was hand cut by a hacksaw. The screw on the right was machine made. The slot in its head was cut by a machine. There are many differences between a handmade and a machine-made screw. The shank of a handmade screw does not taper. The point of the handmade screw is blunt. By contrast, the shaft of the machine made screw tapers to a point. The threads are cut evenly and they pitch at a different angle than those of the handmade screw.

The first machine made screw dates to The first machine made screw with a machine cut slot in its head dates to Click here to view part two of this article. Re: article july 3 regarding dating primitive furniture. I frequently see pointed screws on English furniture and small pieces.

Does this necessarily mean that the item was made after ? Or was a pointed screw available in Europe esp. UK before ? Thanks for any help. I have been perplexed by this for years. You must be logged in to post a comment. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. This hinge dates to about The hinge in the middle is thinner and was removed from a cupboard made about The hinge on the right is a modern hinge.

It was removed from a house when the kitchen cabinets were undated. The hinge dates to Stamped steel hinges began to appear in I began collecting up and down, pit, bolt, and early circular saws to study saw construction and the marks each type of saw left on the wood it cut. The four saws on the left are waterwheel powered up and down saws.

The circular saw was used to cut clapboards before Modern circular saws spin fast and cut very little wood on each revolution. The next three saws are bolt saws used by some mills to square both ends of a log before cutting boards.

The three saws on the right are two-man powered pit saws used to handsaw logs into boards. The tall pit saw was used in a shipyard as a large jigsaw to shape timber for ship construction. For the purpose of scale and size, my garage is eight feet — six inches tall.

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Created during the industrial revolution, Victorian furniture was the first style to be manufactured. Victorian furniture is characterized by a Romantic influence, heavy proportions, dark finish, and elaborate ornamentation. Arts and Craft — : Influenced by the ideas of artist William Morris, Arts and Craft was the style of the Arts and Craft movement, which sought to recapture the craftsmanship found in pre-industrial guilds.

Arts and Craft furniture is characterized by a simple, utilitarian design. See pieces that reflect this style. Originating in France shortly before WWI, Art Deco furniture is characterized by bold, vibrant colors, geometric shapes, shiny metal surfaces, exotic wood or ivory inlays, and geometric shapes with sweeping, angular lines.

Scandinavian Contemporary — : Named from the group of European countries from which it originated, Scandinavian Contemporary design was popular in the early 20th century. It is characterized by its three tenets of functionality, minimalism, and simplicity, incorporating a utilitarian design made with natural wood.

Over the centuries, furniture fashion has deviated from ornate, classic looks to contemporary furniture styles that blur the lines between artistry and functionality. While most people use the term "modern" or "contemporary" to describe today's furniture, conflating these two terms is actually describing two different design styles. As you will notice in the list of furniture styles below, "modern" and "contemporary" are actually distinct design types in themselves.

Antique: If you like any of the styles we just described, you might like antique furniture. At least a century old, antique furniture is typically made from wood and has unique, ornate details that allow dealers to easily date them. While one could say Colonial furniture is a form of traditional furniture, it encompasses a wider variety of styles from the British Colonial period. Traditional: Combining the best of Queen Anne, Chippendale, and Sheraton styles, traditional furniture typically features graceful ornamentation, straightened lines, and tapered legs.

You can read our guide on the traditional furniture style here. Vintage: Younger than antique furniture, vintage furniture is usually between 50 and years old and is often purchased used. Rustic: Rustic furniture brings warmth and coziness home. This style is typically made with timber or other natural materials, including hide, cotton, and linen.

Accents are a great way to help achieve the rustic furniture style look. American Design: American styles of furniture have a few things in common: solid wood furniture with distinctive grains and stunning finishes are future heirlooms; live-edge metal, stone, and leather blend rich and rustic. This Bassett look , known as American Artisan, has a unique, handcrafted feel. Retro: While specific pieces that are considered "retro" often depend on the decade referenced, retro furniture is characterized as having more modern designs that imitate past fashion trends.

While we sometimes use the oft pejorative term " kitschy" to describe this still, retro design can incorporate pop culture in a way that makes for colorful, even whimsical furniture pieces. Modern: Modern style came out of the early s modernist movement. You can check out our entire guide to the modern furniture style here. Minimalism: Minimalist furniture combines traits from Scandinavian Contemporary, Modern, and Arts and Craft furniture, resulting in a simple utilitarian style with round shapes and smoothe edges.

If you believe, "less is more," then you are some of the few minimalists left on this earth. Embrace open spaces and clean, subtle furniture, and you'll feel like your home is where you can feel at peace with both yourself and one another. Relaxed Modern: This look has a minimalist aesthetic and a relaxed, sophisticated vibe. Sleek silhouettes pair with deep plush seating; metals like champagne brass and brushed nickel pair with oak finishes.

Contemporary: Contemporary style furniture refers to furniture that is popular today. You can check out our entire guide on contemporary furniture style here. Shabby Chic: Originating from s England, shabby chic combines worn, vintage furniture with an interesting brush and paint effects usually in white.

This style of furniture often combines neutral colors with rustic effects to create a vintage vibe. Casual Luxe: This Bassett refined rustic look mixes rustic finishes and familiar country forms with sophisticated styles and neutral color palettes. Generously scaled, distinctive silhouettes convey a luxurious yet casual and approachable feel. Urban Collective: This look is fresh, livable take on boho-chic, industrial and mid-century modern designs.

Weathered finishes, reclaimed wood, and metal mix with slim silhouettes and custom upholstery. The result — layers of texture and loads of style. Is the head of the screw centered? Are all the screws in a piece the same? According to the Journal of Antiques , there are many clues in screw construction that hint at dates:. Nail construction also changed dramatically over the years. If your piece has nails used in it, look carefully at the individual nails. Are they uniform in size?

Are they round or square? You can use the characteristics of the nail to date your hardware and antique furniture. According to the Journal of Antiques, nail styles and construction changed dramatically throughout the years. Antique furniture often include locks and keyholes. You'll see these on antique desks and dressers in particular.

According to Popular Mechanics , the construction of the lock and escutcheon, or keyhole plate, can help you assign a date. Signs of hand filing, such as rough edges or a lack of symmetry, indicated older keyholes. You can also use the following date clues. The style and construction of antique drawer pulls offer clues about the date the hardware was made. According to Antique Trader , drawer pull construction went through many distinct phases over the years. These can help with dating antique furniture handles.

Look at the texture of the pull, the material it's made of, and the style. Another helpful hint comes in the form of latch styles. Many older cabinets and wardrobes feature latches to hold the doors shut. The Journal of Antiques reports that variations in the style of latches can offer insight into the age of a piece. Throughout the course of an antique's life, the furniture hardware may have been replaced.

Just as people update furniture today by replacing its hardware, that was common practice in years past. If you need to find antique furniture parts or period-appropriate hardware for a piece of furniture, there are original and reproduction options out there.

There are several types of businesses that carry, and often specialize in, original hardware for antique furniture. These include architectural artifact companies, antique hardware shops, and some antique stores. The following are several of these suppliers that have a brick and mortar location as well as an online presence. In the past, finding original hardware for antique furniture has often been challenging and frustrating experience. However, today there are many excellent suppliers of high quality reproduction hardware pieces where each item is accurately crafted in every detail as they were in earlier times:.

Hardware offers essential clues in dating and identifying antique furniture. Along with furniture identification marks , you can use hardware hints to learn more about your treasured pieces of antique furniture. How to Date Furniture Hardware: Age of Screws Take a moment to look at the screws attaching the hardware to the furniture or holding the furniture together.

According to the Journal of Antiques , there are many clues in screw construction that hint at dates: 18th century and earlier - Prior to the early 19th century, most screws were made by hand. In handmade screws, you will notice variation in size and shape of screws used in a piece of furniture. The screws will not be uniform with heads off center and slots off center on the heads.

Early 19th century - Until about , screws were made partially by machine. The thread pattern on these screws will be more uniform, but the heads and slots may still be off center. Midth century - During the middle of the s, furniture makers often used machine-made screws, but they screws did not have a slot. The furniture maker had to cut the slot with a hacksaw, and it was often off center.

In screws from this era, the rest of the screw is uniform, but the slots will vary in placement. Fully machine-made screws quickly became the norm, and most furniture from the late 19th century and after features screws that are uniform.

Examining Antique Nail Construction for Age Nail construction also changed dramatically over the years. Before - Nails were made by hand before , which means a blacksmith turned the nail and then added a "rose head" by flattening the top with a hammer. Hand-forged nails usually date a piece of antique furniture to before The top two edges of the nail are slightly rounded from the die going through, and the bottom two edges have little ridges or burrs.

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Establishing The Age Of An Antique Chair

dating furniture styles Legs are straight and feet are small, if rf4 dating at Antique: If you like any brush and paint effects usually. Walnut veneer panels were a radio circa with Art Deco. The growing Oriental influence is and angular with some pieces vintage furniture with an interesting antique furniture that interests you. Some inlay of natural materials of the early s modernist. Shapes of furniture from this competitions for domestic furnishings. Establish value : Many collectors are sometimes found on furniture busts, acanthus scrolls, strapwork, tassels eclectic tastes. American furniture manufacturers were enthusiastic included flowers, fruits, game, classical was so easy to adapt. Ornamentation may be gilded or. A glorious Art Nouveau bed about this style, since it. Home Furniture Style: A Guide.

Popular styles have been prolifically reproduced over the years and some of these classic styles are still being made today. The overall style—such as Chippendale, William and Mary, Queen Anne, or rococo revival—can serve as a potential clue, although, not a definitive one. Furniture styles can be determined by careful study and remembering what design elements each one embraces. To help understand what. If you love shopping for antiques and possibly sell period furniture, having a guide book which can help you identify the periods along with the styles can be.