Tips for Buying Antique Furniture

The popularity of DIY has brought about a huge interest in refurbishing old furniture. So much, so that flea markets, auction houses, and second-hand stores became the favorite hunting ground of these bargain hunters. If you are one of those interested in finding a hidden treasure you can turn into a valuable piece for your home, let us provide you with tips on how to find a piece of antique furniture worth keeping.

Take a close look at how the furniture was made

If you are looking at a piece that has drawers, pull all of them out and examine carefully how each was constructed. You can only check if the furniture is handmade by looking inside. Dovetails are a good indication of quality craftsmanship. Similarly, an antique dining table should not have screws joining the components together.

You will know if the piece was made during an earlier period because the dovetail joints are typically larger. Back in the 17th and 18th century, furniture makers did not take time to make small jointing and pretty much slapped pieces together.

Later on, as furniture makers started refining their trade, you will find furniture with thinner and less noticeable dovetails. Note that if you do not see any dovetail anywhere on the furniture, it is only held together with wood glue and nails which does not make the furniture antique.

Inspect the hardware

Do not spend too much time checking for dovetails on each piece of furniture you are checking. You also need to take time and inspect any hardware such as knobs and handles. Going back to the earlier example, while you have a cabinet drawer out, look at the handle’s back and check if the post is threaded and there is a nut that secures the brass to the front. If what you see is a flathead screw, the hardware is not antique.

Look for a stamp, label, or signature

Signatures and stamps are rare with 18th and 17th-century antiques, but if you check underneath or inside drawers, you can find some tell-tale information about who made the piece. Look for pencil or chalk marks which can point to where and who made it. Furniture made later will likely have stamps corresponding to the model or design, especially if the piece was made in a factory.

Look for signs of damage

Cracks in wood furniture is not a cause for you to worry. Wood expands and contracts over time and is to be expected with older pieces. If you are looking for other signs of damage, look underneath tables and chairs for signs of repair or replacement. You can also look at the feet of tables and cabinets to check if any of the pieces have been replaced.

If a piece has undergone some repairs, it means that the original parts remain intact and these repairs were done to refurbish the piece to its original condition. The problem comes with replaced parts as these pieces contain new portions that may not be of the same quality as the original.


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