Jill Mullins, 26 years old
When dating a piece of antique furniture, one of the most important clues to its history is often overlooked. A nail may not be a noticeable style feature, but looking at them carefully can help you authenticate the age of a primitive or antique furniture piece before you buy. Like restorers of historical buildings, you can identify the period by the technology used to create the nails and unlock the past of furniture. Until the 18th century, nail production methods had not changed for hundreds of years. Iron ore and carbon heated together and then cooled created wrought iron, from which a nail length piece was dating nails and screws and hammered on four sides to create a point. Hand-wrought nails have tapered but irregular and crooked square shafts.
In woodworking and constructiona nail is a small object made of metal or wood, called a tree nail or "trunnel" which is used as a fasteneras a peg to hang something, or dating nails and screws as a decoration. Nails are made in a great variety of forms for specialized purposes. The most common is a wire nail. Other types of nails include pinstacksbradsspikesand cleats. Nails are typically driven into the workpiece by a hammer or pneumatic nail gun. A nail holds materials together by friction in the axial direction and shear strength laterally.
Have you ever tried to pinpoint the construction date of a country cupboard? The stylistic techniques used to date formal furniture such as Chippendale and Hepplewhite simply does not work for American country and primitive furniture. Country furniture does have its styles based predominately on religion and region. The catholic French and the Irish built cupboards with bold moldings, cut out feet, raised panels and they painted their cupboards in bright colors. The puritan New England cabinetmakers built simple unadorned cupboards painted in drab colors.
More about dating nails and screws:
Looking at the joinery, or the way a piece of antique furniture is put together, will provide many clues that help in determining the age. But there are a number of other factors to consider as well, including the dating nails and screws that were used to craft a piece and what the individual components look like. Examining these elements individually, as well as furniture pieces in their entirety, will help you learn to correctly date them. Looking at the bottom or back of a piece, or inside its doors and drawers, can provide important clues about whether or not a piece of old furniture was machine cut or crafted by hand. Most handmade pieces will show some irregularities to the surface such as minor nicks indicative of a hand plane being used to smooth out the wood, and this is sometimes even more evident on the back than on the finished front surfaces. This can mean that they were handcrafted prior to or so. Machine made furniture produced largely after will have components that match more perfectly than those made by hand.
One of the most overlooked and least understood clues in establishing the date and authenticity of older and antique furniture is the story that screws can tell about the history of a piece. Screws are relative newcomers to the production of furniture, primarily because they are dating nails and screws hard to make by hand. But as the complexity and sophistication of furniture increased in the late 17th century and the use of brass hardware, locks and concealed hinges became more popular, there was an obvious need for a fastener that could hold two surfaces together without having to penetrate the back surface of the second piece. The screw on the left was handmade in the late 18th century. Note the flat spot on the shaft, the irregular threads, blunt tip and the off center slot. The screw in the center is machine made around
InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website. Here we describe antique and modern cut nails focusing on tree nails, wrought nails, and cut nails used in wood frame construction or interior finishing or carpentry work. We include useful dates for the manufacture of different nail types along with supporting research for various countries from Australia and the U. The history, number and types of nails is both interesting and enormous, even if we confine our discussion to just those used in the construction of buildings.