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How to Determine the Age of Your Antique Bed

February 22, 2019

How to Determine the Age of Your Antique Bed - English Georgian America


If you like antiques, you will love the Antiques Road Show televised on TV. British accents and old items of value that have been knocking around in homes for decades with no idea of their worth.

One of their top 20 finds was an 18th-century apothecary desk valued at £200,000.

No wonder this series has been so popular for over 40 years. Unless you are an antique expert it is clearly quite a challenge to know how old furniture really is and whether in fact it is a valuable antique or not.

With a little know-how, it may not be as complicated as you think. In this article, we will arm you with some tricks of the trade so that you can get a good idea of the age of antique bed frames and other furniture.


Antique - A Changing Definition

If you look up the definition of antique in Merriam-Webster dictionary you will find quite a loose definition. It says an antique can be a piece of furniture at least 100 years old.

Depending on where you shop for antiques and in which country, some would regard an antique as anything that is 50 years or older and is collectible. If you shop in some of the ancient cities of Europe, you will find far stronger opinions on what exactly constitutes an antique.

The important thing in this article is not the age bracket per se but having the basic skill and knowledge that will enable you to work out the approximate age of furniture.


The Agatha Christie Approach

Determining the age of antique bed frames and other furniture takes detective work. You need to detect the clues and follow where they lead you.

Like all good detectives, you need to ask logical questions and seek clues to help you answer them. Here are 5 questions that will put you on track to a good estimation of the furniture's age.


1. Is it Handmade?

Why does it matter? It matters because it is a major clue as to the period when the antique beds were made. Most machine-made pieces date to after the 1860s.

So if your antique bed frame was machine made you know that it doesn't date into the hundreds of years.

So how do you know if it was machine made or not? Smooth and consistent surfaces are the giveaway. You need to get the inside story so to speak, so make sure you look under the bed or inside the furniture to see the surface of the wood.

If it has been hand made there will inevitably be irregularities in the surface of the wood that you would expect to see when hand-planed as an example.

Another clue is the attachments such as the feet, spindles and drawer knobs. If they match perfectly it is likely they were machine made.


2. What Types of Tools Were Used?

Man has been making and using tools almost from the beginning of his existence. As time has passed the tools have changed and developed. No matter how good the tools are, they leave their mark.

Modern manufacturing techniques aim to produce near-flawless finishes and surfaces and perfect cuts. Older techniques and older tools are quite different.

Take as a case in point, the example of circular saws. These were not used until about the mid-1800s. They leave a circular pattern in the wood. Whereas, more modern straight saws do not leave this patterning.

If you become more familiar with the antique period tools and the little marks that give them away, you will go far in being able to date your furniture.


3. What Is the Antique Bed Frame Made From?

This is not always an easy question to answer especially on vintage beds.

If you become more familiar with different woods and are able to identify them, that is to say, to be able to distinguish them from each other then you will have made another step forward in dating your furniture.

The simple truth is that different woods have been in and out of fashion through different periods of time. This is one of many clues that will help you ut your furniture into a general time period.

As an example, mahogany was very popular from the 1700s onward. Oak was fashionable pre-1700s and then resurfaced as a popular material around 1900.


4. What Is the Hardware Like on Antique Beds?

Hardware refers to things like the screws and fixings used for hinges etc. Modern hardware is perfectly manufactured. The further you go back the less perfect this hardware is.

Very old screws are completely handmade on antique beds as well.

The first screws were made in the 1700s by blacksmiths. Each one is different but follows the same broad idea of what a screw should be like. It is noteworthy the tips were not sharp or pointed as they tend to be in more modern pieces.

As you get into the 1800s fixings were made using molds. This often has marks on the surface of the screws that reflect the material of the mold.

For example, some molds were made from sand and you can see this patterning in the surface of the screws.


5. What is the Style of Vintage Beds?

By now you can see the logic here. Different styles, different periods.

It is a Chippendale or a Queen Anne? This is easier to get a grip on than, for example, the wood material as you can easily check the style using a reference book.

The style of patterning also makes a difference. What is the style of marquetry?

If you can identify the style you will once again have another strong clue as to the time period. If you want to learn more about buying and owning antique beds you can learn more here.


Antique Bed Frames And Other Furniture - Need More Help?

If you are interested in antique bed frames and learning more about antique furniture then you are in the right place. In this article, you have learned how to spot the clues and follow where they lead.

If you need more help or want to learn more then get in touch here.