Determining the age of a piece of antique furniture is by no means an exact science and even experts can be fooled by quality reproductions. However, Nancy Russell, writing in the Columbia Daily Tribune recently, was happy to share with her reading public some general hints on determining the age of pieces, a summary of which follows. She begins by asking us to look at wooden boards used in construction, where earlier pieces used wide planks that spanned the width of the tree trunk. This logic can be applied to floorboards in older houses where narrower boards are a more recent innovation. Wood shrinks with age and early round table tops can become almost elliptical in shape over time. Early nails used were individually made by the blacksmith, had irregular or rosehead tops and have a crude quality, whereas later 19th century machined nails are more uniform, often headless and tapered. Screws generally tend to be a later innovation although there are earlier examples, but again early screws would have uneven threads where later ones would have uniform threads. Also, early jointing pegs will stand proud on older antique furniture where the wood has generally shrunk over time; and circular saw marks on undersides would be an indicator of later pieces. Finally, patinas can easily be faked, so look inside a piece of furniture for evidence of age.
On fine cabinetry, age and authenticity can be more difficult to determine, where marriages, professional stressing and modern varnishes can easily fool, so it is sensible to buy fine antique furniture from a reputable dealer. When looking for antique bookcases, Cumbria and Lancashire antique dealers will guide you through the pieces they have on offer.