Dating furniture handles
This construction detail is your first key to the piece’s age and quality of craftsmanship.Dovetail joints are strong and require skill to produce, so they’re generally a sign of a well-made piece.Early pieces that were handcrafted will sometimes bear an inscription from an individual furniture maker, a clue to its value that should be examined by a professional appraiser.“If they’re really old, it could be just a pencil signature on the inside of a drawer,” Masaschi says.Mass-produced pieces from the turn of the 20th century on will often bear a label from the manufacturer, such as “Larkin Soap Co.” or “Cadillac Cabinet Company.” This is a nice little piece of history — but also tells you how common the piece is, which can help you determine whether you should refinish yourself. Solid cast-brass or wooden pulls mean the piece is likely old; using a collectibles reference guide, you can identify their style and hence their age range.Generally, mass-produced pieces up until the 1950s and 1960s (when particleboard and cheaper, flimsier construction techniques became popular) are great candidates for refinishing. Common style examples are Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Federal (shown below on a chest of drawers original to the period), Depression-era, Victorian, and Queen Anne.Check to see if the caster is brass with a laminated leather caster.This style could indicate the Georgian period from 1770 to 1780. This can indicate the furniture style of the Georgian period from 1780 to 1790.
This would indicate a later Georgian period, from 1760 to 1770.“But by the time you hit the turn of the 20th century, makers were using paper labels (shown below), which then progressed into brass plaques tacked onto the insides of drawers or on the back of a piece.Then in the 1950s and 1960s they were using spray-on stencils.” Keep in mind that sometimes suites of furniture had only one piece marked, so if your piece got separated from its mates, you may have nothing to go by.She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.If you have a worn old dresser or rickety heirloom chair on your hands, you may be thinking of refinishing it yourself.“If it’s been in the family a while, it’s worth finding out before you do some damage.” To muddy the waters a bit, there are some more recent pieces by prominent makers—for example, from the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts periods (shown in the photo below) — that command high prices and shouldn’t be touched.If you suspect there’s something unusual or distinctively well-made about your piece, go with your gut, Masaschi says, and ask someone who knows.Look at the backside of your piece, including the insides and backs of drawers if applicable.Solid wood backing indicates a piece is likely pre-1880s; plywood came into vogue around the turn of the 20th century.Furniture casters are viewed as a convenience that helps us move furniture so we can vacuum or rearrange the room.Yet, casters sometimes had more to do with lighting than housekeeping or design.