Primitive nails dating
As the dovetail joint evolved through the last one hundred thirty years, it becomes a clue for the age and authenticity of antique furniture.
Tiny angled saw cuts were followed by careful cutting by a sharpened chisel on both sides to avoid splintering.
Steam power, transferred by pulleys and leather belts, operated saws, carving machines and routers that could copy an original pattern exactly.
These routers were ancestors of the electric precision tools of today, and could be used to rapidly cut a machined dovetail joint.
These machine-cut dovetails are as strong and long lasting as the hand-made joints, and became the standard of better American furniture ever since the late 1890's.
Here is an early example of machine-cut dovetails on a 1920's sideboard from a dining set: European cabinetmakers continued to produce hand-cut dovetails through the 1930's.