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An Introduction to Antique Furniture Part Two

Early forms of furniture were primitive items constructed quite often out of solid pieces of timber. Though quite ornate at times they were still fairly basic items that lacked the finesse of later centuries and manufacturers.

It was during the 17th and 18th Centuries that Furniture Construction as we know more of it nowadays came into its own. With the appearance of Thomas Chippendale (1718-19) furniture manufacture became more sophisticated in its design and execution with finely executed joints and a carcase (body of the item of furniture) that was as well made as the façade.

However as with all things, the prohibitive cost of craftsmanship meant that by the late 19th Century suppliers of Furniture were looking at techniques that could help bring the cost of manufacture down to more manageable and cost efficient proportions and hence the introduction of the earliest forms of machine assisted furniture.

For the purpose of this article we will be looking at Furniture from the following aspects: Pegged Construction and Drawer Construction, and then in the next article a detailed look at styles of two items of furniture, Chairs and Tables.

Pegged Construction

Until the early 18th Century, furniture was constructed by and large using a “Pegged” or “Joined” technique using Mortise-and-Tenon joints held together held together quite often just by wooden pegs or dowels and on very rare occasions, nails.

As you can imagine the earliest forms of pegs were quite primitive in their manufacture and acted more like wedges and tended to tighten the joints they were hammered into.

Quite often, as the years would go by these joints and pegs would find themselves being pushed out of shape and this is quite often an indicator of firstly, how old a piece is and secondly how well cared for an item of furniture is with the appearance of these joints.

Drawer Construction

Early Drawers were characterised by the thick sides or linings which were usually channelled so that they could run on bars or runners fixed to the sides of the carcase. As you can imagine these developed quite considerably as the items of furniture or drawers that they were designed to support became more and more delicate and sophisticated. From the 17th Century onwards as with other forms of furniture, the practice of just using simple pegs and runners all but died out to be replaced by more sophisticated runners being placed beneath rather than at the sides of the drawers.

I am often asked as to why a study of furniture is so important? Will it solve the Worlds ills, can it help solve World Poverty (yes if the stuff is manufactured in the right places at the right costs but that is another matter)?

Well the answer primarily to all of the above questions is by and large no but as in all these cases the situation is like anything that relates to the study of History. By only correctly understanding where we have come from, how we arrived here and what we did, can we begin to have any real hope of moving forward without repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

As to how important furniture is?

Well what else would you sit and write on?

About the Author: Stephen Morgan is an independent journalist with an interest in Antiques ( ) Collectables ( and Memorabilia (

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