The way to Determine the Age of an Antique Roll-top Desk

The way to Determine the Age of an Antique Roll-top Desk

Determining the specific era of any piece of antique furniture could be challenging. Depending on information provided by the piece itself, you may have the ability to come in a couple of years of dating it or might need to settle for a length of 50 decades or longer. A vast array of tools can allow you to come close to dating an antique roll-top desk.

Take a comprehensive set of dimensions for your desk, such as height, depth and width of both the bottom desk and the tambour, or roll-top. Particularly if your desk, like many sold in the “Sears, Roebuck & Co.” or even “Montgomery Ward” catalogs from the 1880s at the end of the 1920s, was factory-built, then you might recognize it by its dimensions as much as by its layout. Perfectly symmetrical dimensions are a hint your desk was factory- rather than hand-made.

Identify what kind of wood your table is created from. Early roll-tops were built of heavy forests such as black walnut, and small regional businesses might select from a number of local hardwoods. Most popular toward the end of the 19th century, close-grained oak was often quarter-sawn, or cut to market a particularly grain, reducing the possibility of warping and increasing durability. Mahogany, cherry and teak additionally seem in older desks, however from 1900 on, most desks were oak. A desk made from cherry after 1900, for instance, would have been a special order or the function of a local craftsman. You might choose to look for guidance from an expert carpenter or cabinet-maker to spot the timber, particularly if it has been stained or varnished to modify the color.

Note whether the bottom and top sections of your desk are held together by glue or wooden pegs. Pegs are an old wood-joining technique, one which dated back to leaders and reconstructed in communities where metal hardware needed to be brought in from a distant factory.

Remove all of the drawers, partitions and hexagonal pieces to check for possible distinguishing labels. Labels might include the names of producers of desk parts such as locks and keys. Not all producers put tags in the same places. Double-check the knee-hole, either side of the base of the primary drawer and the rear of both the desk and its leading. Finding a label lets you verify age from a industrial history. You might come no nearer than the date the company went out of business, or you may have the ability to decipher product codes to ascertain a particular year of manufacture.

Take photographs and make easy rubbings of complex and distinctive details such as embossed metal or shallow-carved timber. For an uncommon lock plate, for instance, include a common object such as a pen, a brief ruler or even a dollar bill from the photograph to describe the exact size. Making a rubbing in addition to a picture may highlight detail hard to see even in good light. One of the appeals of a roll-top desk is safety. Your desk may show the proud work of a local locksmith or a manner of lock plate or even vital popular during a specific period.

Look carefully at just how drawers on your desk have been assembled. Like wooden pegs instead of screws, hand-cut dovetail joints on the sides of drawers indicate old, prefactory assembly methods. Hand-cut dovetails were often used before the 1860s, when factory-cut methods became widely accessible and economical.

Examine how the tambour was assembled. Some forks are merely wired together, while some are glued to a canvas or linen backing. Early patents focused on fabric-backed slats; wire-joining suggests later repair or local originality. Particularly if your desk has remained in a single family and hasn’t had restorative maintenance, the assembly might offer clues to the producer and so the era of the desk. Eighteenth-century desks often featured a pull-down C-curved top fashioned from a single piece of timber. This curved top formed the basis for the slatted C-curved tambour of the early 19th century and eventually the S-curve of mid- to late 19th- and also 20th-century desks.

Check libraries for older catalogs and office-equipment company backgrounds. You may discover your desk proudly displayed in illustrations, and company history may provide era details. A piece which has spent many generations in precisely the exact same family might have been manufactured locally, and company history can help you figure out its age.