Antiques may be of many different kinds and of all the antique collectibles and furniture happens to be the most popular and practical choice. Antique furniture is distinct from other categories of antiques in the sense that no one collects the same type of object repeatedly. It means that you would not want to buy and collect only tables or chests and fill up your home with everything the same. However, you may have a specific liking to certain wood or style.
Regardless of your preference, if you are planning to purchase antique furniture, you need to know the basics. In other words, you should have some idea about various styles, techniques of construction, finishes and variety of woods used. You will need this knowledge to determine if a particular piece is original (in its original state without any major changes) or altered (if some major alterations or additions have been made to it.)
Once you are acquainted with the basics, go to as many antique furniture dealers and auctions as you possibly can. When inspecting the merchandise, don’t hesitate in pulling out drawers, getting down on your knees to look at the underside of tabletops or lifting chairs to have a look at their legs. If you don’t get down and dirty, you will never learn.
In the beginning, furniture was crafted from solid wood but with improvement in cabinet making techniques, furniture decoration by applying veneers (thin sheets of wood) was developed. This provided an inexpensive method of creating decorative effects from different grains and patterns. It was also an economical technique that made inexpensive woods look like expensive hard woods. Such furniture had a solid body called a carcass that is made of a different, generally less expensive wood, like pine. Some of the woods used in antique furniture are beech, cherry, chestnut, ebony, elm, mahogany, pine, oak, satinwood, walnut etc.
The following features are significant when determining the age, authenticity, quality and worth or price of antique furniture:
I> Color and Patina: Patina is the glow of the wood after years of accumulation of wax polish and dirt. A rich subtle color is also an important characteristic of antique furniture.
II> Proportion: A disproportionate piece of furniture may well be a “marriage” of different parts from different furniture.
III> Construction: Before the late 17th century, furniture was made using mortise and tendon joints and pegs were handmade.
IV> Condition: Do not ignore pieces with marks or blemishes as the wood has not been damaged. A good restorer can undo surface spots. Antique Furniture in it original pristine condition is worth the highest price.
V> Alterations: Altered furniture is always less desirable than the original piece. Telltale alterations include large pieces reduced in size, freshly cut surfaces, plugged holes, repositioned handles etc.
Now that you know what to look for, the question is where to look for antique furniture?
Well, apart from auctions and dealers, you can always check the classifieds section in the paper to see if anybody’s selling furniture and go check it out. You might even find a good bargain this way. Also, you will find many sites that sell antique furniture on the internet or you could use the internet to find out where you could go to get good deals on antique furniture.