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There is no exact science where antique furniture is concerned; you simply make an educated decision based on what is most important to you.

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It’s easy to spot an antique by the drawers because joints were not machine-cut until about 1860.

If it has only a few dovetail joints, with pins narrower than the dovetails, then the joint was made by hand.

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.

American furniture styles have seen a significant number of style periods since the early Colonial era, with each period being to some degree influenced by the pieces being built in Europe (generally England and France).

Hunting for antique American furniture is a popular pastime, but how do you really know what you're buying is a true classic, such as a Shaker or Chippendale piece?

And that is even if you are focusing on only one aspect of this very diverse subject.

When trying to identify antique furniture, dedicated antique hunters search for beautifully preserved pieces, armed with pins, magnifying glasses, spirit levels and all sorts of testing equipment.

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.

However, in the early eighteenth century, the walnuts in central Europe were nearly extinguished by a frosty winter and its numbers were significantly reduced.

Fine old works are often French-polished, a variation of the shellac finish.

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