Dating antique furniture dovetails

A stencil-like device called a jig was used to create these dovetails.In the 1890s, American furniture makers started using the sliding keyhole or French dovetail.

The inventor was Charles B Knapp of Waterloo, Wisconsin with a patent dated 1867. Also a hand cut dovetail usually points towards an older piece. Creating a machine to cut those joints was not an easy task. Called the Knapp joint, the joint consists of integral dowels and half round mortises in the face of the drawer and a half-round "tail" with a hole drilled out to receive the dowel on the drawer sides. By 1871, Furniture companies on the east coast primarily were using this machine to further speed the production of case furniture.

There was by 1871 a Knapp Dovetailing Company of Northampton, Mass. We have separately read, but can’t now document, that the dating was about the same but that the concept of the joint was French and the window of use was only for 12 years. References include: Pictures by The Wood Works Inc. Knapp’s Oddity” by Fred Taylor, the origin of which is not known. Hemlock Drive, Overland Park, KS 66212 Call 913-362-2432 FAX 913-362-0588 background-attachment: scroll; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: rgb(85, 124, 153); border-top-style: dotted; border-right-style: dotted; border-bottom-style: dotted; border-left-style: dotted; border-top-width: 1px; border-right-width: 1px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-left-width: 1px; border-top-color: rgb(204, 183, 153); border-right-color: rgb(204, 183, 153); border-bottom-color: rgb(204, 183, 153); border-left-color: rgb(204, 183, 153); -webkit-box-shadow: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.0976563) 0px 0px 0px; box-shadow: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.0976563) 0px 0px 0px; background-position: 0% 0%; background-repeat: repeat repeat; " One way of telling the age and place of manufacture of a piece of furniture is to look at the way that the drawers are constructed. During the 19th century, as furniture production became more and more mechanised, furniture companies tried frantically to create a machine that would cut dovetail joinery with limited success. Nearer to the turn of the century, the furniture this was used on was cheaper and by 1900, the machined dovetail was in use.

Examples of dovetailed joints have been found in pieces from ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations, and it remains a popular method of joinery today.

One of the most basic type of dovetailing found in antiques is the "tail and pin" type, also known as an English dovetail.

Drawers constructed with this type of dovetail have a smaller capacity than drawers of an equivalent size made with English dovetails.

Bethany Seeley has been publishing articles since 2000 on topics relating to church history and theology.

And The Knapp Joint by Arnold Silverman of the Colorado Period Furniture Makers Guild. To learn more about this topic or The Wood Works, Inc., our products and how our services and expertise can help you, give us a call or visit our showroom. The dovetail joinery on the sides where the front of the drawer meets the sides can tell you a lot. This information gives a very specific window of time when dating Victorian furniture.

See "before-and-after" samples in our showroom as well as our website! Most Eastlake period case pieces will have this style of joinery.

The principle of fitting two notched boards together is the same as tail and pin dovetailing, although unlike the almost triangular pins of the former, the pins of round style dovetails are semi-circular.

Comments are closed.