Types of Dovetails in Antiques By Bethany Seeley ; Updated April 12, When appraising or inspecting a piece of antique furniture, a dealer or prospective buyer will look closely at the drawers. The style of dovetailing used by the maker can provide clues as to the age of the piece, as well as reveal whether it was made in the United States, Canada or Europe. Dovetailing is a method of precisely cutting two boards so that they can be interlocked securely together. Dovetailing typically requires no nails or other hardware. Examples of dovetailed joints have been found in pieces from ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations, and it remains a popular method of joinery today. Tail and Pin English Dovetail One of the most basic type of dovetailing found in antiques is the “tail and pin” type, also known as an English dovetail. This consists of one board with a series of small angled notches cut into one end and a second board with a series of larger notches.
Woodworking in the Viking Age
By Bob Flexner Pages A while back, my wife and I were visiting friends who wanted to show us their collection of antique furniture. At one point we went into their bedroom and I headed directly for a very old-looking chest-of-drawers. I just wanted to date the piece by how the drawer was made.
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A typical Boley WW-Type watchmaker’s lathe with a centre height of 50 mm, mm between centres and a single foot. The headstock spindle was hardened and ground, fitted with hardened and ground precision bearings and the pulley provided with a ring of indexing holes located by a plunger visible at the left hand end of the headstock. A miniature compound screw-feed slide was available to special order – as was a wide range of other finely made accessories including capstan conversion parts.
The Boley 2 lathe was fitted with a screw-feed compound slide rest as standard. Boley watchmakers’ lathes can be found with two “styles” of WW Webster Whitcombe” bed: The lathes were of heavier-than-normal construction reference the 25 mm diameter bed – and usually offered as a complete, boxed kit at a bargain price – the aim being to acquire Western currency at almost any cost.
Unlike most other watchmaker’s lathes paint beautifully applied was used on headstock and tailstock – again mimicking the last of the Boley WW lathes made during the s. The lathe was marketed world-wide, with the East German dealers Georg Jacob perhaps responsible for stamping the end of the bed G. Boley – though with a lack of finesse, the heavy punching and thicker letters too close together betraying the origins of the lathe.
However, the solid white oak varnished case has finger box joints and panel construction for the top and bottom with very interesting pivoting latches that are flush with the front side when closed – so allowing a very safe, positive locking.
How to Identify Furniture of the 1800s by Its Dovetailing
Furniture Wood If you have a worn old dresser or rickety heirloom chair on your hands, you may be thinking of refinishing it yourself. Older mass-produced pieces whose origins fall somewhere between and are ideal candidates for refinishing. However, if you have questions about how old your piece is, consult an expert first, says Teri Masaschi , author of Foolproof Wood Finishing:
Dovetail joints often hold two boards together in a box or drawer, almost like interlocking the fingertips of your hands.
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Note the decoration to the tumbler and spring. Below, a diagram of the Banbury lock, showing mechanism set into a wooden stock, and the distinctive key with a collar set within the width of the bit. When considering church locks it seems particularly appropriate that the earliest depiction of a lock should be found on a bas-relief in an Egyptian temple at Kamak dating from BC.
Dovetail joints are strong and require skill to produce, so they’re generally a sign of a well-made piece. Hand-cut dovetails can date an older American piece to before , although hobbyists and specialty makers still use them.
History of Technology Heroes and Villains – A little light reading Here you will find a brief history of technology. Initially inspired by the development of batteries, it covers technology in general and includes some interesting little known, or long forgotten, facts as well as a few myths about the development of technology, the science behind it, the context in which it occurred and the deeds of the many personalities, eccentrics and charlatans involved.
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The electronics, computers and communications industries, power engineering and much of the chemical industry of today were founded on discoveries made possible by the battery.
European history of log cabins[ edit ] A timber cutter’s mountain log cabin at the Museum of Folk Architecture, Pyrohiv , Ukraine. Construction with logs was described by Roman architect Vitruvius Pollio in his architectural treatise De Architectura. He noted that in Pontus modern-day northeastern Turkey , dwellings were constructed by laying logs horizontally overtop of each other and filling in the gaps with “chips and mud”.
Although their origin is uncertain, the first log structures were probably being built in Northern Europe by the Bronze Age about BC.
Customers often ask us questions about dating furniture. One way to do this is from the dovetail joints used in its construction. More often than not the dovetails are age appropriate, and this article will explain what a dovetail is, and what to look for in a period piece to correctly date it.
Dovetails are interlocking carved wood joints used in cabinetry to connect two pieces of wood — drawer fronts and sides, cabinet or cupboard corners. The technique produces a sturdy, long-lasting connection. Examining these joints helps determine the age of old furniture. It’s called a “dovetail” joint because the flat-bottomed triangular shape of the wood insert looks like a dove’s tail. Whether that tail is fat, skinny, symmetrical or used sparingly reveals a clue to the origins of the piece.
The Pharaoh’s Footstool Egyptian pharaohs were buried with fine furnishings and chests of valuables and rare spices to accompany them to the afterlife. Boxy shapes with joined wood angles were connected by dovetailing, a fact that contributed to the intact state of the grave goods when the pyramids and burial chambers were excavated.
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Types[ edit ] A mortise is a cavity cut into a timber to receive a tenon. There are several kinds of mortise: Stub mortise a shallow mortise, the depth of which depends on the size of the timber; also a mortise that does not go through the workpiece as opposed to a “through mortise”. Through mortise Wedged half- dovetail a mortise in which the back is wider, or taller, than the front, or opening.
The space for the wedge initially leaves room to insert the tenon. The wedge, after the tenon is engaged, prevents its withdrawal.
Boley Lathe No. 1a. A typical Boley WW-Type watchmaker’s lathe with a centre height of 50 mm, mm between centres and a single foot. The headstock spindle was hardened and ground, fitted with hardened and ground precision bearings and the pulley provided with a ring of indexing holes located by a plunger visible at the left hand end of the headstock.
Most kinds of staples are easier to produce than nails or screws. The crown of the staple can be used to bridge materials butted together. The crown can bridge a piece and fasten it without puncturing with a leg on either side, e. The crown provides greater surface area than other comparable fasteners. This is generally more helpful with thinner materials. Staples in construction[ edit ] Construction staples are commonly larger,  have a more varied use, and are delivered by a staple gun or hammer tacker.
They typically have staples made from thicker metal. Some staple guns use arched staples for fastening small cables, e.
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You’ll also be signed up to receive e-newsletters from Antique Trader and partners. Fred Taylor January 13, One of the first things to be looked at when trying to determine the age of a piece of older or antique furniture is the type of joinery used in the construction of the piece. Knowing the history of the technology of various periods goes a long way toward explaining clues about the age of furniture and none is more important or accessible than the type of joint used to secure a drawer.
Mostly what we see are dovetails of a sort. The interlocking dovetail joint came into general use in the William and Mary period in the late s and very early s and for the first time allowed the construction of reliable drawers, a device with extremely limited use or convenience until then. Before this innovation most furniture consisted of simple boxes called coffers or some type of open shelving arrangement and cabinets with shelves behind doors such as the old court cupboard.
As useful as the dovetail joint started out to be, it did have a serious drawback: It was hard to make by hand and of course everything of that period was made by hand. By the end of the 18th century some progress had been made in furniture technology. Rotary saws were on the horizon and all nails were no longer made one at a time by a blacksmith. The early s saw a lot of advancement in machinery for wood working and by the Civil War mechanized furniture factories were on line but the dovetail drawer joint was still a holdup.
While the joint had been refined and perfected it was still too difficult to be made by a machine. Some progress had been made by the use of jigs to help guide the hand-powered saws in their cutting but essentially the dovetail was the last hold out of hand work in a machine era.