Dating antiques joinery

These routers were ancestors of the electric precision tools of today, and could be used to rapidly cut a machined dovetail joint.

Each cut is exactly like the others, each "tail" and "pin" are exactly matched.

Genuine hand-made dovetails like these were the standard of good furniture craftsmanship until about 1870, when American ingenuity developed the "pin and cove" or round style dovetail, often seen on late Victorian and Eastlake furniture.

These were cut with a jig or pattern, and an apprentice could create a very well fitting and attractive joint. European cabinetmakers continued their hand-cut dovetails well into the 1900's.

When appraising or inspecting a piece of antique furniture, a dealer or prospective buyer will look closely at the drawers.

The style of dovetailing used by the maker can provide clues as to the age of the piece, as well as reveal whether it was made in the United States, Canada or Europe.

The development of power tools such as routers and saws made it possible to make this type of joint.

The earliest examples are from furniture placed with mummies in Egypt thousands of years ago, and also in the burials of ancient Chinese emperors.

Examples of dovetailed joints have been found in pieces from ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations, and it remains a popular method of joinery today.

One of the most basic type of dovetailing found in antiques is the "tail and pin" type, also known as an English dovetail.

The principle of fitting two notched boards together is the same as tail and pin dovetailing, although unlike the almost triangular pins of the former, the pins of round style dovetails are semi-circular.

This style was used in the United States and Canada, but did not gain popularity among European builders.

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The slow and laborious crafting and carving, one piece at a time, by a master woodworker was not suited to the new mass market.

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