Looking at antique furniture, we often seek clues for authenticity and age. There are many factors that show true historic construction, but one clue that is often overlooked is the type of nail used to hold the piece together. Nails in antique furniture are often barely noticeable, but they are another key to unlock the history of wooden pieces. The quest for the ideal nail has taken centuries of development. The ancient Egyptians and Romans used organic glue for wood furniture, especially with decorative veneer techniques, but like much advanced technology, glue for wood became a lost art after the collapse of Rome in until the Renaissance, around , when glue and veneer techniques reappeared. During the Middle Ages, furniture was held together with pegs, dovetails, mortise and tenon joints and a few nails. Archaeologists have found hand made bronze nails from as far back as BC. The Romans made many of their nails from iron, which was harder, but many ancient iron nails have rusted away since. The hand-forged nail changed little until well into the ‘s.
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The use of nails and screws can give an indication of the age of joinery or its fittings and provides a useful insight into a building’s history. Hand-Forged Nails Nails were among the first metal objects made by mankind, indispensable or such everyday items as doors and roof coverings, shoes, buckets and barrels. Early nails were usually square in section and the earliest were individually forged by hand from iron. The head of the nail was formed either by simply turning it over to form an L-shape or by striking a hand-held mould or ‘bore’ over the end of the shank to produce a shaped end such as a ‘rose-head’, a simple four sided pyramid shape.
However, being hand-forged, the variety of shapes and forms are infinite. These nails were expensive to produce and were used sparingly.
Whatever your DIY project, one question is likely to arise: should you use nails or screws to fasten the pieces of wood together?
Wood screws are one of the least understood clues in establishing the date and authenticity of antique furniture. They are especially valuable for dating country and primitive furniture. The stylistic techniques used to date formal furniture such as Chippendale and Hepplewhite simply do not work for American country and primitive furniture; screws can tell a story about the history of a piece.
Wooden screws — screws made from wood — date from antiquity. Metal wood screws — for fastening into wood — appear to have originated in the 15th century. Screws are relative newcomers to the production of furniture and did not become a common woodworking fastener until more efficient tools were developed around the end of the 18th century.
As furniture increased in complexity and sophistication, and the use of brass hardware, locks and concealed hinges became more popular, there was a need for a fastener that could hold two surfaces together without having to penetrate the back surface of the second piece. Early screws differ significantly from their modern equivalents, both in how they look and how they were produced.
Dating furniture by screws
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Using Nails to Date a Site – Wrought Nails, Cut Nails and Others. Nails are a fantastic way to determine the age of a site you plan to metal detect. This guide can.
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. Little Flask was one of the wrought ones; made to clinch tight and last long. An examination of nails and fasteners and other building hardware is a complimentary effort useful in determining the age of a building and its components.
A close observation of the type of fasteners used in a building is one of the most popular means of estimating its age. The three types of nails found in North American construction include hand wrought nails, machine cut nails, modern round “wire” nails. Nelson NPS and other nail chronologists point out, however that a wealth other details can describe the date of production and use of each of those three general nail types.
In turn, nail details can establish the time of original construction of a building and the time of modifications to the structure. In addition to nails, building material, wood saw cut marks, and other hardware details can further assist in determining building age. The nail shown above in the photo and detailed further below was hand-made in the Northeastern U.
To provide a chronology of the production and types of nails we first describe wooden nails or “tree nails” followed by a chronological list of useful dates for iron nails.
System for Dating Country and Primitive Furniture, Part One
If you are trying to determine the age of a piece of American antique furniture , it will require investigative work. Look closely at the the different elements that make the piece of furniture. Examine the level of work that went into the furniture from the joinery, finishing, knobs, and more.
Nails, as a means of fastening wooden objects, date back to approximately BC in ancient Egypt. The term “penny” probably originated in.
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How you go about removing old screws and/or nails depends on how the fixing was originally made. It also depends on whether you need to do the job with care.
Most everyone knows that handmade nails are older than machine made nails. But could you identify a handmade nail if you saw one? And could you separate an old nail from a reproduction nail? In addition to looking at how old nails were made, this article will also discuss how to examine nail holes, rust left by nails plus where, how and why specific types and shapes of nails were used.
Nails, modern or antique, are able to be used as fasteners because of the cellular structure of wood on the microscopic level. As a nail is driven into wood, the tip of the nail pushes apart or crushes wood cells in its path Fig. When the tip of the nail passes, the cells spring back and try to resume their former positions.
This applies pressure to the nail shank Fig. The principle is the same for all nails old or modern regardless of shape or how they were made. Mathematical formulas can accurately predict the holding power of nails based on size of nail, depth nail is driven, and the species and moisture content of the wood. Nails have been in use since the beginning of the Bronze Age, ca.
Nails and Wood Screws
A straight-grained, unrestrained board can usually withstand moderate fluctuations in relative humidity without damage. Because wood expands and contracts in response to fluctuating humidity levels, these junctions where members are joined may become weak points in the object, susceptible to pulling or pushing stresses that may eventually cause breakage. The mortise and tenon joint : Because the pieces of wood are at cross grain to one another, different degrees of expansion and contraction can cause the joint to fracture or pull apart.
The dovetail joint is another traditional technique used to join the edges of wide boards, common for the sides of drawers and chests. Similar to the mortise and tenon joint, the dovetail joint can break apart or crushed due to the expansion and contraction of wood. The inner edge of the frame is grooved to hold the edges of a wide panel, which is free floating and therefore able to expand and contract freely with changing relative humidity.
Dating from the days when nails cost a lot more than they do today, the term penny identifies the size of a nail. In an earlier era, one hundred nails of a certain size.
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Dating furniture screws
If a cemetery has 10 headstones, very often there will be a few, or more than a few, additional unmarked graves case in point: a cemetery in White County, Illinois, with 7 headstones, but [! When a cemetery has so many unmarked graves, the range of the interment sequence can often be observed through analysis and interpretation of the mortuary materials associated with coffins and caskets. Nails were used for almost all wood coffins and caskets constructed prior to circa , and this type of hardware is found in most graves.
They were used for joining wood pieces on the coffin box and lid, and to secure the coffin lid to the coffin box. Wood screws were also fairly common, but they were typically used to secure the coffin lid to the coffin box, rather than in joinery for the coffin box.
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