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Antique Furniture Screw Furniture

The top two bolts are machine made on a lathe. The second bolt is the old standard bed bolt, 3/8' diameter with 14 threads per inch. This is the type you can purchase from us. The three bolts lower in the photo were made using a die.

A die is similar to a nut with a cutter or cutters placed in it. The die remains stationary while the bolt is rotated and forced into it. There was no thread standardization at the time and each blacksmith made his own dies. During the 19th century 3/8" by 14 thread became the most common thread for bed bolts. Long after the 16 thread per inch standard was adopted, bed bolts continued to use 14 threads.

We still carry the 3/8" by 14 thread bed bolt on our hardware page.

These are made by driving a die (mold) onto the heated end of the round bolt. The three lower bolts have forged heads with a washer swedged onto them. To make this type head the blacksmith hammers the heated bolt square then drives a washer onto the heated square. Several other type bed bolt head were also used. The screw cap head on the left used a large screwdriver blade to tighten it. It had the advanage of being low profile so it did not need to be counter sunk into the wood post. The bolt on the right could be tightened with wrench, a screwdriver or a metal pin. The pin hole was a special adaptation for bolts that were located inside the bed rail with the nut in the post. Are they tapered and pointed with smooth grooves, or are the ends cut and the slots offset?

Check out the condition of the finish on the exterior as well as the drawers. Many people make the mistake of looking at one or two details while neglecting the rest, but judging antique is a lot like judging a painting: look at the details, but also take in an overall perspective. Does it shine brilliantly or does it look old?

New hardware can also be made to look antique, so don’t draw too hasty of a conclusion: just keep it in mind. Phillips screws, they have either been added in a recent restoration or it’s a fake. If your piece has drawers, take a drawer out and look at how the handles are attached on the inside of the drawer. Nuts are more common for antiques, while screws are a newer convention. Also check to see if the hardware has been replaced: usually there will be marks or holes on the wood around the hardware. Note whether the drawer has dovetails, and whether they are machine-cut dovetails or hand-cut. Drawers (and backs) are also usually one of the cheapest components in . The logic behind this move is simple: why waste expensive, solid wood (which has to be carefully treated and cured) on the inside of a drawer?

Flip the drawer over too, as a true period piece will not only have a solid wood bottom, but that wood will be thick and beveled to fit into the grooves of the frame of the drawer. High gloss finishes and polyurethane are 20th-century elements. Antique furniture was usually shellacked, meaning that it typically had a duller finish. This isn’t to say that antique finishes can’t be shiny and reflective, but they’re not going to be high gloss, either.


Antique Furniture Restoration how to Removing a tight screw

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Shellack finishes were very often quite thick (up to a quarter inch!), so that’s another—albeit slightly more difficult—indicator to look for. Basically, if you’re serious about knowing whether your piece is antique, compare it to similar pieces that claim to be antique. We’ve already written a great piece on distinguishing between different woods , so you may want to check that out.

We hope that we’ve answered your questions, but if anything is lacking, please feel free to post in the comments section below!

Purchasing antique furniture can be costly. So it’s important to be careful and not buy a piece you think is worth thousands of dollars, only to find out it’s worth next to nothing. The golden rule is never buy an antique until you know for sure that it’s authentic. Though there are a few unscrupulous antique dealers who will try to pull one off on you, the majority are honest and just want to sell their items as soon as possible. The longer a piece of furniture remains in their inventory, the less profit they make on it. While a piece of furniture may sell for more than say a cup and saucer, it takes up valuable floor space, so there’s actually more profit in smaller items. Of course, how high up the retailers ladder the same venue is, the bettter chance you have of buying an authentic piece. This is especially true of the ones selling pieces of furniture for five and six figures. They also make sure each piece has a provenance. If you buy your antique furniture at garage and yard sales, you better know what you’re looking at or you’re sure to be taken. So how can you tell if a piece is authentic?

He wasn’t just playing around with that magnifying glass. The first giveaway is the joinery—machine-cut only dates back to 1860. If the piece has drawers, remove a drawer and look closely where the front and back of the drawer connects to the sides of the drawer. Not all pieces made before 1860 had dovetail joints on drawers.


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Be sure to look carefully at the bottom, sides, and back of the drawer. Cabinetmakers made these from solid wood, often of the same type as the exterior of the piece. If the wood shows nicks or cuts, they probably cut these pieces with a plane, a spokeshave, or a drawknife. If the wood shows circular or arc-shaped marks, you can bet the furniture maker used a circular saw, which didn’t come into use until about 1860. While furniture made before 1860 may look symmetrical, if you look closely, you’ll see that it isn’t. Slight differences in size or shape aren’t always easy to spot. The former is hand cut while the latter is machine cut. Furniture finishes can help you date a piece. Before the mid-1840s, shellac was the only clear surface finish. Lacquer and varnish didn’t come along the mid 19th century. Older pieces may have oil, wax, or milk paint finishes.

How furniture makers joined other parts of a piece of furniture together is another way to tell age. Generally, cabinetmakers used pegs to join parts together. Screws didn’t come into common use until the early 19th century. Those made before 1840 had flat, un-tapered heads. Antique, handmade screws had irregular widths between the spirals, running the whole length of the shaft. The slot in the head was often off-center.

New screws, on the other hand, have sharp points and regular, evenly spaced threads. It may just be a cover glued into the hole to cover up a counter-sinked screw. Furniture made before 1700 is usually oak, but after 1700, cabinetmakers commonly used mahogany and walnut. After you give a piece a good overall look, measure it to see if it’s even all around. Wood shrinks, so an older piece of furniture will most likely have uneven measurements. Tabletops, for example, won’t be as round as they would have been when new. Run your hand over and shine a flashlight across the surface of the wood to detect hairline cracks and ripples that come with aging. Look underneath for the inevitable warping and buckling of wood. Check to see if any of the wood has become discolored from uneven exposure to light. An old piece of furniture that has stood against a wall for years will show its age with distinct differences in coloring. And while it’s a good idea to check the wood beneath the hardware, most dealers won’t allow you to detach the hardware to do so. However, if you’re able to do so, you’ll notice that the wood is usually lighter underneath. Also look for screw holes on drawer fronts which indicate that the original hardware has been replaced.

Fakers often forget to include the dirt build-up. Look at the frame under the upholstery for sets of nail holes from previous upholstery. An aged piece may have seen several changes in fabric, so you’ll see lots of holes from previous nails. Look carefully at the glass in mirrors to see if you can tell if it has been replaced. Until the beginning of the 19th century, cabinetmakers imported all the mirror glass they used. Antique glass is thin—less than 1/8 inch thick—variably wavy, and often grayish. The closer the tip of the reflected image is to the tip of the actual key, the more likely it is that the glass is old. The difference is in the kinds of wood they use and how they join the pieces together. Newer pieces have smoother edges and feet. Also, the feet on newer pieces don’t show the deep carving of older ones. Wood veneers on antique furniture are of thick and somewhat irregular widths. These decorative nails are durable accents to your home and are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. But if doesn't, try dazzling her with your expertise in dating antiques. These materials are not exactly uniform in thickness, decoration, shape, etc. A piece of furniture made from uniformly thick wood is not a hand made piece no matter what form it takes and no matter what kind of distressing it displays. If the wood is exactly 3/4" thick, the wood was probably bought at 84 lumber and distressed to make it look old. If the wood is uniformly 7/8th inch thick, then it is earlier - perhaps 1900 - 1920 (we're not sure of the exact dates) but it is still machined material. Another area to watch out for is hand smithied tools. There is something of a revival of blacksmithing going on right now.


Antique Bed Bolts

Naturally, the new smiths make projects modeled after old items. But you can still look at the stock that formed the starting point. If that is uniform in size, diameter, etc., you can still recognize the piece as new work. Often a hand wrought piece will betray its age by the electric arc welding at the joints. The process is gradual, slowly eating its way into the surface, until their isn't anything left. Of course, rust can form over night but at first, it is just surface rust that can be wiped off with your finger. Over a period of weeks or a few months it becomes deep enough to require stronger methods - steel wool - but it is still removable. Even burying an item in the ground for six months or a year won't put a really deep coat of rust on an item. Deep rust, on the other hand is almost impossible to remove.

You can use a sandblaster and get rid of the rust, but you'll leave a deeply pitted surface. It can be a clock that ticks off the age. On nails for instance, we look for rosette heads and square nails of the blacksmith. On screws we look for slight asymmetries in the head, and if we can get a screw out of the wood, we look for uneven widely spaced threads that reveal the hand filing of some weary apprentice. Once we encounter machine made nails or screws though, we say 20th century and look no further. Actually, there are useful clues in even machine made screws. Especially look for phillips head screws. Those are the screws with a "cross" on the head instead of a single slot. By the 1920s, it was being used as a base for veneers on the main structural elements of dressers and other furniture. By the 1930s, it had become the main building material for all but the highest quality furniture. Most of today's furniture has even less real wood in it. Particle board or wafer board is the main structural material. That's the stuff they make by mixing sawdust and glue together. Just leaning on a dresser can break all the joints where the fasteners are holding it together. Dozens and dozens of sizes and lengths for that hard to find fit/match.

I have a large mixed lot of antique oval head slotted wood screws for your consideration. There are dozens of different sizes and lengths.

They are three inches long and are beefy. Screws are in unused condition with tarnish, box is well worn. Screws are in excellent unused condition with tarnish, box is worn. Many of these are rusty but most should still work just fine if you want to use them. Pictures are part of the description please ask questions about the item l’m happy to answer. 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 so 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 1830. It has sharp, even threads, a cylindrical shape, blunt end and the slot is still off center.


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But that solution would not work for securing the top on a chest of drawers or top without either driving a nail through the top from above or clinching it on the top to hold it fast. The same problem arose while trying to affix a lock to the back side of a drawer. For a nail to hold, it would have had to be driven through the front of the drawer. The same was true for hinges used under a table leaf. The concept of the screw is an ancient one. In effect a screw is a ramp wrapped around a column. But how to manufacture that ramp on that column by hand?

Handmade screws of the 18th century started out much as the handmade nails of the period did, as square iron nail stock produced in a rolling mill. In many cases the same smith who made the nails occasionally turned his craft to the making of screws and thereby left us with personal traces of the maker. The smith heated the square stock and then began the process of pounding out a round shaft. In this process, “round” was a relative term since very few hand hammered objects of iron are perfectly round. When a suitable degree of “roundness” was achieved, the hot shaft was jammed into a form on the anvil, similar to the swage block used in making the hammered head of the rose head nail. But the form used for the screw was a more or less round shallow depression into which the top of the shaft was hammered flat, producing a screw head. The slot for the bladed screwdriver was cut with a hacksaw. When the smith had the length he thought was needed for the job, he simply cut or snipped the threaded shaft. This entire hand-done process leaves a multitude of clues on the handmade screw, just waiting for our inspection. Starting with the top of the screw, the head, evidence of handwork is abundant. In most cases the head is not perfectly round and is not centered perfectly on the shaft. The hand cut slot is seldom perfectly centered on the off-center head. Below the head, on the smooth portion of the shaft above the threads, is the most likely place to find areas that still show a flat side of the original iron nail stock.

This portion of the shaft is almost never totally round or totally smooth. But the most obvious clue to the handwork is the thread. The pitch, the angle of the thread to the shaft, will vary considerably from thread to thread as will the depth of the cut into the shaft that produces the thread. The edges are often flat since they were filed into shape, and the tip is invariably blunt since the smith just cut it off. And the overall shape of the entire screw is cylindrical rather than tapered, as is the case in modern screws. Because of the individual nuances and variables in the handwork process, no two handmade screws are identical. Screws with these characteristics were produced until early in the 19th century.

These new machine-made screws also resembled their ancestors in that they were still almost perfectly cylindrical and had a blunt tip. The introduction in 1848 of the completely machine-made gimlet screw, with a tapered shaft and a pointed tip, marked the beginning of the modern era in screw production. Changing this setting will alter the functionality of this website and your user experience could be diminished. Contact your branch for purchasing options.

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