Antique Furniture Dovetails

 By John Tope

Handmade drawers usually have joinery made of large dovetails.  Fewer dovetails meant less work and consumed less time to make a drawer.  Handmade dovetails were made using a chisel, mallet and sometimes a small handsaw.  The mallet had a large head and was made of hardwood.  You can see some of the unevenness made by a hand worked chisel.

Numerous and uniform cut dovetails indicate machine made.  More specifically, a man would make the dovetails with the use of a machine.  About 1900, the machine made dovetail joint was dominant.  Hand made joints were fewer, but with machinery, many dovetails could be easily made.  You will not find machine made dovetails in a piece prior to approximately 1865.