An antique piece of wooden furniture is not just valued for its age, but also for its ornate carvings or charming flourishes that stand apart from contemporary designs. While you usually have to shell out quite a bit of money to acquire such pieces, it is well worth the investment. However, you should know how to identify antique furniture, whether you are rummaging your attic or basement for something that will add exclusivity to your living space or you are visiting antique stores to buy one. Remember that some stores might consider 50-year-old furniture to be antique, while a few might be more discerning and consider those that are at least 150-year-old to be antique. Also, with many imitations and reproductions flooding the market these days, it can become challenging to identify antique furniture easily.
So, keep these tips in mind:
1) Check if the furniture is made of one type of wood or multiple
If a piece of furniture is antique indeed, it will most likely be crafted with different types of wood. Expensive or top quality wood was usually not used in the olden days for those nooks and crannies that no one would see, like the bottom of a drawer or the seat of a chair. Hence, one of the best ways to identify antique furniture is to check the kinds of wood used throughout. If it appears the same, it is probably an imitation or machine-cut product.
2) Look into dovetailing and imperfections
Identifying antique wooden furniture involves checking dovetailing details. Essentially a sign of premium woodwork, dovetailing is a technique that holds the different components of a furniture piece together. Since ages, dovetail joints have been used in the sides of cabinets and drawers. So, in case the furniture you are planning to buy features dovetailing, find out if the lines are flawless or too straight. If they are perfect, the furniture is probably not an antique. If the dovetailing has imperfections, the furniture is likely to be handcrafted and antique.
3) The furniture shouldn’t just look old
One of the important tips to identify antique wooden furniture is to make sure that it’s actually old and doesn’t just “look” so. For example, be a little wary of stores that claim to sell shabby-chic furniture pieces. They might look vintage or distressed, but might not be so in reality. To be certain, check if things like drawer runners are actually worn out or if dirt has accumulated in the corners or joints.
4) Don’t ignore the importance of overall asymmetry
Perfectly uniform or symmetrical furniture pieces are usually produced by machines are not handmade. So, apart from the dovetailing detail we discussed above, for antique furniture identification, check the overall construction, carvings, corners, and small details like spindles, rungs, and slats. If you notice irregularity, the piece is the real deal.
5) Double check stamps, labels or tags
Often, an antique piece of furniture comes with labels, tags or stamps that indicate where it was made and when. You might notice the manufacturer’s name as well. So, check the backside of a bureau, the insides of a drawer, or the lower edges or bottoms of a piece to detect such labels. However, these days, tags or labels can be faked as well. So, try to make sure that it looks old or dusty.
6) Take a close look at the wooden finish
Another smart way to identify antique furniture is by checking the finish on it. If it’s shellac (a clear finish), it was probably constructed before 1860. For ancient furniture, the finish can be wax, oil or even milk paint. And if the finish is varnish or lacquer, it probably isn’t antique.
Hopefully, you are now more confident about picking up antique furniture pieces. And if you still don’t want to be in two minds about a piece, search for antique + Woodsala products online to get your hands on some of the best handiwork possible.