Dating american furniture
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During the Middle Ages, furniture was held together with pegs, dovetails, mortise and tenon joints and a few nails.
Egyptian pharaohs were buried with fine furnishings and chests of valuables and rare spices to accompany them to the afterlife.In the late 1890s, scalloped dovetails were the rage, but the trend shifted back to the classic triangular shape after a few years.Hand-cut dovetailing was the default until 1860 when uniform machine-cut joints were introduced.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.The joints were less delicate at first -- fairly wide and blunt, cut crudely with rare exceptions.
But the style developed into a very thin, precise and fragile-looking joint.As Churchill noted, To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.The ancient Egyptians and Romans used organic glue for wood furniture, especially with decorative veneer techniques, but like much advanced technology, glue for wood became a lost art after the collapse of Rome in 476 until the Renaissance, around 1400, when glue and veneer techniques reappeared.Meanwhile, country carpenters were turning out sturdy and polished dovetailing in their handmade pieces -- but favored two or three large dovetails, fairly symmetrical, over the more delicate and numerous joints in which master carpenters took pride.The strength of the joint is the reason for its long popularity.Today, dovetail joints are machine made, and that fact is what helps to pinpoint the age of the chest of drawers from the attic.