Dating antique screws

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Note whether the drawer has dovetails, and whether they are machine-cut dovetails or hand-cut. This is usually a sign that the piece is indeed antique—and high-quality at that, since rear dovetails are very uncommon even in antiques.

Drawers (and backs) are also usually one of the cheapest components in furniture. Most modern pieces—even high-quality reproductions that look very genuine on the outside—use plywood in drawer construction.

Our reproduction furniture also exemplifies what a quality replica looks like, so be sure to learn the differences between good and bad antique imitations.

You may also want to look up Asian furniture manufacturers: they usually produce caricatures of English or European styles, so you’ll find, for example, that ogee feet become ornate and excessively curved, or you may even find Asian motifs carved into the wood.

Nuts are more common for antiques, while screws are a newer convention.

Also check to see if the hardware has been replaced: usually there will be marks or holes on the wood around the hardware.

This one has limited application but can be a life saver in some situations.

We’ve already written a great piece on distinguishing between different woods, so you may want to check that out.

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?

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