Antique Furniture Screws

By John Tope

In the early 1800’s, screws were hammered into their shape by a blacksmith.  Screws were all handmade and hand cut.  Screws began to be machine made on about the 1830’s.  Originally screws were flat bottomed until it was realized that a pointed screw was better, just like our modern screws.  After about 1850, all screws have been basically the same through today.

If you find an old screw in a piece of furniture it may not be the original.  One clue is to look at the slot in the head.  When there are marks made by a screwdriver turning the screw in a clockwise direction, it would indicate the screw was screwed into the wood. When you see marks made by a screwdriver that would have been the result of a counter clockwise turn, this would indicate that the screw was removed.  The original screw may have not been replaced.  

Philips head screws were introduced in the late 1930’s.  Any furniture that has a Philips head screw will indicate either the piece was made after the late 1930’s, or it is not the original screw.

Look at rust from oxidation.  It should be reddish in color like you would expect to see on steel.  New screws and mails are shiny with a zinc coat to prevent rust.  The wood around an old uncoated nail or screw would be oxidized black.