Abbey Group

People are talking!

When our oak dining table was damaged during our move we didn’t for a minute think that anyone would be able to restore it to its former state. The table was a wedding present, and so we are thrilled that you have not only repaired the damage so well that we can’t even tell where it was, but the table looks better than it has in years. I’m sure we’ll be back in future, and will be recommending your restoration services to our friends

James and Vanessa McNiven, Toft, Cambs

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Fire and flood

We have extensive experience of providing restoration and repair from fire, flood and accidental damage.

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Bespoke furniture

Our craftsmen create bespoke furniture to meet your exact needs.

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Antique Furniture Restoration

We have extensive experience of providing restoration and repair from fire.

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Insurance

We work with insurers to ensure a seamless service with one point of contact.

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A question of identity

5th February 2015

 

Whether you are interested in identifying the provenance of a piece of antique furniture or whether you are looking to buy a piece and want a guarantee of its monetary worth, being able to identify whether an antique is the genuine article is important.

 

For some people, the look and feel of the piece is enough. It will look good in your home so why worry too much about its heritage and authenticity. In fact, many vintage furniture buyers will opt for more affordable, high quality reproductions. But if you are serious about collecting pieces of furniture with a view to investing, then you will most definitely want to know what you are getting for your money.

 

Unfortunately there is no exact science when it comes to identifying a piece of furniture. You can go to the showrooms and antique centres armed with a magnifying glass and spirit level, but that will not guarantee that you will spot a fake.

 

However, we can offer some words of advice that might help you in your search for authenticity. 

 

Joinery is the place to start. Machine-cut furniture didn’t hit the market until the latter part of the 19th century. There are some tricks of the trade which will help you date a piece of furniture. If a piece has drawers, check the joins. If the dovetail join is uneven and there are only a few dovetails, it is likely to have been made by hand and could be genuinely pre 1860. A dovetail join that is neat, precise and closely-spaced is undoubtably machine cut and so will be post 1860.

 

Another way to roughly date a piece is to look for the shapes of any marks on the wood. Nicks or cuts indicate that a plane or a spokeshave was used in the manufacture of the piece – this indicates hand-made furniture. Equally, straight-saw marks indicate the furniture was likely to have been made pre 1860 as circular saws didn't come into use until the 1870s – arc-shaped or circular marks are a giveaway that a circular saw was used.

 

A handmade piece is unlikely to be perfect. Look for asymmetry on parts such as rungs, slats, rockers and spindles. A real antique is rarely perfectly cut, unlike its younger, machine-cut counterparts.

 

That is not to say that the workmanship on these pieces of furniture is shoddy in any way. Antique furniture was produced by highly skilled craftsman, so anything that looks as if it was ‘thrown’ together is also unlikely to be the real deal.

 

The wood used in pieces of furniture can provide a clue to age. Very early furniture – that is pre 1700 – is more than likely to be made from oak, whereas from the beginning of the 18th century, mahogany and walnut were more popular woods. If your antique has an American heritage, then bear in mind that better furniture was made from maple, oak, walnut, cherry or mahogany, while pine furniture was, and is, used more widely, often in cheaper products.

 

When you are examining a piece of furniture, take a look at the finish on a piece. Lacquer and varnish started appearing in the mid 19th century, prior to that shellac was the only clear finish. Very old furniture might have a finish of oil, wax or milk paint.

 

Finally, take into account the price. No dealer is likely to let a genuine piece of Victorian or Georgian furniture go for a song. If a piece is cheap, be suspicious, but equally, don’t be fooled into paying a lot of money for a piece that turns out to be an expensive fake. If in doubt, seek the advice of an independent specialist.

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