Dating furniture by dovetail

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Some progress had been made by the use of jigs to help guide the hand-powered saws in their cutting but essentially the dovetail was the last hold out of hand work in a machine era.Several inventors were hard at work on the problem in the 1860s and most concentrated on trying to duplicate the hand made dovetail using a machine – that is until Mr. Knapp of Waterloo, Wis., applied himself to the task.A 17th-century Chinese canopy bed at the Victoria and Albert Museum is held together with dovetailing.The use of the joinery technique stretches back into prehistory, but its utility is still relevant.

Noted for its resistance to being pulled apart (tensile strength), the dovetail joint is commonly used to join the sides of a drawer to the front.Boxy shapes with joined wood angles were connected by dovetailing, a fact that contributed to the intact state of the grave goods when the pyramids and burial chambers were excavated.The massive horizontal stone lintels at Stonehenge were connected by dovetailing, more rounded than triangular.Whether that tail is fat, skinny, symmetrical or used sparingly reveals a clue to the origins of the piece.Egyptian pharaohs were buried with fine furnishings and chests of valuables and rare spices to accompany them to the afterlife.

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