When you want to refinish old wooden furniture, the best place to look is the family storeroom: Check the attic, basement, garage, or wherever unwanted furniture has collected. You may also discover a real antique or two - pieces handed down through the family for generations. 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. Antique stores are a good place to find furniture to refinish, but expect to pay for these pieces. If you're interested in antiques, recent or old, research before you buy anything. Real antiques and many reproductions are extremely valuable, but there are also many imitations.
The finish on the wood can also date the piece. Until Victorian times, shellac was the only clear surface finish; lacquer and varnish were not developed until the mids.
Adding to the complexity is the proliferation of copycat builders and modern furniture craftsmen who do an admirable job of cloning authentic antique furniture right down to the tool marks and date stamps. Determining the age of antique furniture is the first step in establishing a proper valuation, as well as verifying that the piece is indeed an authentic furnishing from the era in question. Newer roll-top desks or pieces manufactured to mimic authentic antiques typically have no manufacturer or date markings. Roll-top desks that have been in use for over a century have obvious signs of wear-and-tear, such as bumps, scratches, nicks and patina discoloration. If you are trying to determine the age of a piece of American antique furniture, it will require investigative work. Look closely at the the different elements that make the piece of furniture. Examine the level of work that went into the furniture from the joinery, finishing, knobs, and more.
The finish on a piece made before is usually shellac; if the piece is very old, it may be oil, wax, or milk paint. Fine old pieces are often French-polished, a variation of the shellac finish.
A lacquer or varnish finish is a sure sign of later manufacture. Testing a finish isn't always possible in a dealer's showroom, but if you can manage it, identify the finish before you buy. Test the piece in an inconspicuous spot with denatured alcohol; if finish dissolves, it's shellac. If the piece is painted, test it with ammonia; very old pieces may be finished with milk paint, which can be removed only with ammonia.
If the piece of furniture is very dirty or encrusted with wax, clean it first with a mixture of denatured alcohol, white vinegar, and kerosene, in equal parts. The wood itself is the final clue. Very early furniture - before - is mostly oak, but from on, mahogany and walnut were widely used. In America, pine has always been used because it's easy to find and easy to work; better furniture may be made with maple, oak, walnut, cherry, or mahogany.
Pawn Stars: 19th Century Wooton Desk (Season 15) - History
But because the same woods have always been favored for furniture, workmanship and finish are probably a better indicator of age than the wood itself. Let's look at the differences between basic English and American furniture styles in the next section. Antique wooden drawers had joints that weren't machine-cute until Related 10 Awesome Uses for Duct Tape.
A number of these styles have been revived over and over, and still inspire reproductions in their likeness. Some also overlap in their descriptors.
These include slant-fronts like the escritoire and fall-fronts like the butler's desk, among a number of others. Developed in France, and associated with Louis XIV-style furniture, the Bureau Mazarin was usually quite ornate and lavishly adorned with Boulle marquetry.
Apr 04, It can be difficult to identify vintage and antique furniture. Checking the bottom of the desk and of the drawers might reveal a manufacturer's stamp or seal. Scour the internet for similar pieces. Otherwise contact a dealer or appraiser. Typically, antique secretary desks from the s have solid wood or much thicker veneers. Another key indicator of authenticity is the drawer linings. Look for cedar, mahogany, and oak. Most antique desks were made by hand and use fine dovetailed joints. Thick . There are several ways you can spot an antique. The first giveaway is the joinery; machine-cut furniture wasn't made until about If the piece has drawers, remove a drawer and look closely where the front and back of the drawer are fastened to the sides of the drawer.
The name, which literally means "Mazarin's desk" is a 19th-century term, referring to Cardinal Jules Mazarin, who ruled as Louis' regent from Often referenced as a butler's chest, this is a type of drop-front desk, fairly short and compact but substantial and square in shape. The interior contains several small drawers, cubbyholes, and letter slots surrounding a central door. The lower half usually has three to four drawers or, occasionally, shelves behind two doors.
Dating from the late 18th century, and continuing in popularity for the next years, this desk usually reflects predominant furniture styles of the period in details such as the feet or ornamentation.
While fairly plain-as befitting a utilitarian piece of furniture-butler's desks often had fashionable decorative details.
The Cheveret is a variety of small, delicate stand or desk, specifically of the type commonly referred to as a "ladies writing desk. Though probably originating in France, Cheverets further developed in England in the latter half of the 18th century, representing the vogue for light, portable furniture.
Dovetails - A Clue for Dating Antiques. Dovetail joints often hold two boards together in a box or drawer, almost like interlocking the fingertips of your hands. As the dovetail joint evolved through the last one hundred thirty years, it becomes a clue for the age and authenticity of antique furniture. One of the best ways to identify an antique style is by observing the piece's legs and feet. Early 17th-century furniture typically featured bun- or ball-style feet.
They continued to be popular into the Regency period, until the s. Many also have small front drawers, cubbyholes, hidden compartments released by a knob in one of the drawers, or pop-up galleries.
Dating antique desks
The exterior facade of a roll-top desk as well as its construction can provide visual clues as to its age. Trustworthy resources can help confirm your age calculations.
Take a good look at the type of wood the roll-top desk is made of to help you determine its age. The early roll-top desks were typically constructed from cherry, mahogany or black walnut, while oak was often used after Mahogany is strong and dense because it lacks knots and holes in the grain of the wood, while cherry has a distinctive reddish appearance.
Solid black walnut has a natural dark brown hue with attractive grains.
Oak is easy to distinguish from mahogany, cherry or black walnut due to its golden-toned lighter hue. Remove a drawer from the roll-top desk to see how it was put together.
A dovetail joint resembles the triangle shape of a bird's tail and holds the boards together with cutouts in the wood that fit together snugly.