Dating a antique secretary
Check the piece in an inconspicuous spot with denatured alcohol; if finish dissolves, it’s shellac.If the piece is painted, test it with ammonia; older pieces may be finished with milk paint, which can be removed only with ammonia.If the piece of furniture is dirty or encrusted with wax, clean it first with a mixture of denatured alcohol, white vinegar, and kerosene, in equal parts. Very early furniture, from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the eighteenth century, is mostly oak, but since the end of the seventeenth century, other woods as walnut and mahogany became the preferred choice among the cabinet makers.Around the 1670s they came to recognise the better properties of the walnut, which dense grain allowed for lighter and finer shapes of the furniture, and quickly turned into a most fashionable material.Consider practical matters Carefully: Always check the size and weight of any piece of antique furniture that interests you. To reduce these costs, search in local antique dealers and check other sellers who will provide a complete wrap and ship service.The first aspect is the joinery; machine-cut furniture was not produced until about 1860.
It’s easy to spot an antique by the drawers because joints were not machine-cut until about 1860.
The finish on furniture, made before 1860, is usually shellac; if the piece is very old, it may be oil, wax, or milk paint.
Fine old works are often French-polished, a variation of the shellac finish.
A lacquer or varnish finish is a sure sign of later manufacture.
Testing a finish isn’t always possible in a dealer’s showroom, but if you can manage it, identify the finish before you buy.