Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Saw Marks On The Back Of Antique Furniture

Saw marks on the back of antique furniture are a common thing. In fact, they are useful in providing one of the easiest methods for actually dating the antique furniture piece. Although the circular saw was invented around 1800, the circular saw did not come into wide spread usage until after 1830. Therefore, boards that exhibit circular saw marks were most likely cut after 1830.

Prior to that time ripsaws were used to cut boards and frequently the antique furniture built prior to 1830 will display small almost parallel saw marks on the back headboards, cabinet backs, drawer bottoms and other of unfinished areas of the piece.

Prior to the mid 19th century, all lumber was worked by hand. The logs were cut in the proper lengths by axe or hand-sawing. Next the logs were cut lengthwise in two or more board strips usually with a two-man hand ripsaw. Then the cabinet makers dressed their boards with a jack plane and draw knives. As a result of this hand tooling, many unfinished non-visible surfaces like backboards and drawer bottoms will show evidence of "hand-planing" which means that there will be subtle undulating rows in the wood because it is almost impossible even for a master craftsman to get a uniformly smooth flat surface working with hand tools.

Obviously saw marks on the back of antique furniture are an important piece in determining the age of the antique furniture. But they are not the only indication of age. Other construction methods also provide fairly accurate dating.

Wooden dowels can reveal the approximate time of construction. This is important in pieces that have no unfinished surface such as dining room chairs. You can use wood dowels as another helpful method for authenticating a piece of furniture�s age. Machine dowel pins will be perfectly circular and fit flush to the surface of the piece. Hand made dowel pins are non-round and will protrude slightly from the surface of the pieces because of shrinkage over time in the wood they are securing and swelling in the dowel as well.