The Dovetail Joint: 1 Easy Way to Tell a Reproduction from a True Antique

Spot a reproduction from an antique by checking the dovetail joints.

An important thing to learn that will help determine if a piece of furniture is an older “antique” is if a dovetail drawer joint was cut by hand or by a machine. It’s fairly easy to tell the difference with a quick look at them. A machine cut dovetail drawer has evenly spaced pins and tails, all looking the same. The earliest machine cut dovetail joints were used during the later part of the 19th century and are common on much of today's furniture.

On the other hand, a hand cut dovetail joint has a finer, thinner look and generally is not perfectly spaced. Hand cut joints were commonly used in both European and early American made furniture and date back to the early Egyptian times. They are still used today by many experienced custom furniture makers. 

Dovetail joints are not only used to make a strong joint for drawer construction, but cabinet makers often use them to join the tops, bottoms and sides of cabinet cases, as was done on antique furniture. When you see this hand cut type of dovetail on a drawer or cabinet case, you can be pretty sure that along with “aged” looking wood that the item was made prior to 1870. Keep this in mind when looking for real “period” antique furniture.

Thanks for checking in and happy hunting!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Toby K February 09, 2012 at 01:45 AM
thanks for the useful information, Bill!!
Cathy Bedini February 10, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Bill, This is very helpful info! Now I know what to look for when we go antique furniture shopping.
Bill Oakley February 11, 2012 at 02:51 PM
You're very welcome Toby. Stay tuned for more to come!
Bill Oakley February 11, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I'll be talking about other things a furniture "detective" should known when out shopping and trying to identify furniture. Stay tuned!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »