Dating antique dressers
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Dovetail joints often hold two boards together in a box or drawer, almost like interlocking the fingertips of your hands.
This type of joint is fairly easy to make, requiring no sophisticated tools and is still seen in typical “high school shop” type projects and in lesser quality commercial goods, especially when non-wood compositions are used in drawer construction. One, nails of the 17th century were rare and precious, being individually hand made and two, the joint wasn’t very strong.
Toward the end of the 17th century, the Dutch created the concept of the interlocking “dovetail” joint.
Early dovetail construction sometimes featured only one pin and it was often nailed in place.
Early Colonial ( 18th century) dovetail joints featured three or four stubby dovetails and they were glued, not nailed.
Of course single drawers and combinations of drawers were made earlier but appeared usually as an adjunct to the lift top or dower chest which was the most common chest type in the that century.
Dovetail joints are excellent joints but they take a long time to make by hand.
On the other hand, if we find a machine made dovetail joint we know with pretty good assurance that it was made in the 20th century and our search for antiquity is over. Visit Furniture Detective to buy his book “How To Be a Furniture Detective” is available for .95 plus S&H.