Buying Antique Tables: What To Look For

Posted by Old Plank on Aug 13th 2015

Tables are one of the earliest types of furniture in the world. Comprised of a flat horizontal surface held up by “legs,” they are mainly used to support objects, but can also be used in a variety of ways. Various types include dining tables, bedside tables, coffee tables, console tables and writing tables or desks.

To the untrained eye, antiques can be hard to determine. So for those who are just starting to collect antique tables, here are some things to look for before buying one.

1. Check for wood composition

Having knowledge in wood is a huge advantage when inspecting older furniture. Knowing the wood colors and wood grains can help you predict the period of production. For example:

  • Early 16th century to the mid-17th century – Age of oak
  • Late 17th to the early 18th century – Age of walnut
  • Mid-18th century – Age of mahogany and satinwood

Many buyers struggle with wood types and descriptions. Check below for the basic wood types and grains.

Also inspect if the furniture is composed of solid wood, veneered wood or particle board.

  • Solid wood – earlier pieces of antique
  • Veneered wood (slices of wood are covered by base wood) – first appeared in the walnut period, but were hand cut and very thick. Thin veneers indicate modern-day furniture reproductions.
  • Particle board – cheapest type of wood furniture and were never used in older pieces

2. Check for rarity

Is the table unique? Have you found other pieces that look exactly like it? Older tables are usually rare, as they tend to be handmade by skillful artisans. Some antique tables have unusual shapes, designs, or colors that make them stand out from the rest.

3. Check construction

  • Drawers – Open and close to see if they slide well.
  • Dovetailed joints – Antique furniture pieces have handmade dovetailed joints which are large and uneven while machine dovetailed joints are even.
  • Circular saw marks – These did not come into usage until the 18th century. Furniture pre-dating 1830 have small, parallel saw lines
  • Wood shrinkage – Wood shrinks in a direction opposite to the grain. Tabletops with that measure oval, or ⅛ longer than the direction of the grain, or those with legs slightly extending beyond the frame is most likely an authentic piece.
  • Modern screws – Modern screws, staples and glue are indicators of a recent reproduction.

4. Check condition

Normal wear is expected in antique tables. Areas of wear usually include legs or edges. Older tables also show signs of age, which means boards are usually of varying width or have signs of cracking.

Before purchasing, however, make sure that the piece is still functional despite its imperfections. Don’t buy rickety or wobbly tables. Deviations from the table’s original condition, such as missing parts and chips can reduce the antique’s value.

Here at Antiques on Old Plank Road, we offer a variety of antique dining tables, antique tables, French dining tables, French country tables and vintage tables from different time periods. From solid Louis XIII style tables to rustic farm tables, these quality pieces cater to all preferences. Check out our antique table selection today.