|Absolute Proof of Authenticity|
Over the years I have developed a deep respect for original hardware which is still in its place and has never been removed. I think it is certainly one of the most important clues as to the actual age of the piece. Fakers are usually more concerned with the wood elements and hiding the new wood or cut wood edges with fake patina and stains. Until recently, they have not been so concerned with using period and appropriate hardware.
In fact, it is possible to recycle old hardware onto newer reproductions, but more difficult to find enough old hardware from the same period that matches.
When I look at antique tables, the very first thing I look at are the hinges and screws. Iron hinges went through a very clear evolution during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century, as did the screws that held them in place. Until the industrial revolution fully took over this job, all furniture hinges were made by blacksmiths.
The earliest iron hinges were straps of iron bent around a pin and forged together. These hinges clearly show the smith's work and have a distinctive taper to their thickness. It is pretty hard to break one of these hinges, since you would have to break the pin or tear the iron. Not going to happen.
Soon they added rivets in iron to hold the straps together. On all these hinges the bevel for the screw head is hand cut and irregular. In fact all the holes are where they end up. Nothing is even or symmetrical. Just not important, since they were not seen in the finished product.
|Note Scribe Lines For Axis Alignment|
|Note Saw Cuts For Creating Mortise|
The screws went through a similar evolution, from completely hand filed to cast to the invention of the modern pointed gimlet screw in 1846. There is a wonderful research pdf from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, by Christopher White online which illustrates the different periods of screws.
|A Thing of Beauty|
|Nothing Touched Since 1820|
It is important to recognize that modern screw drivers should not be used on period screws. Period screws were fastened with two tools, a gimlet and a turnscrew. The gimlet was used to create the pilot hole, since the early screws were blunt and not tapered. The turnscrew is the original name for the screwdriver, but the tip was not square. The tip was tapered, like a "V." The reason the tip was tapered was because the slot in the head of the screw was not flat bottomed. Being cut by hand with a blade left the slot slightly tapered. Therefore, using a modern screwdriver, which has not been modified, will cause the tool to slip out of the slot, damaging the oxidation on the head of the screw. This is how you can recognize original screws which have never been removed compared to original screws which have been removed and reinstalled using the wrong tool.
The photos of all 6 hinges on this post were taken from the same table. It was made in Baltimore around 1820 and is in two sections, each with drop leaves. Each leaf has three hinges, all completely untouched by modern woodworkers. Although the table was refinished some years ago, the refinisher had the good sense to not remove the hinges. I would like to thank him for his knowledge and consideration.
Bottom line: when you find original evidence of age, leave it alone. The future collectors will thank you.
|This One Had A Loose Screw|