Dating furniture legs
Eastlake and Victorian-style wood furniture, especially case furniture, displays a round dovetail known as a "pin and cove." It could be cut from a pattern, so an apprentice could do a decent job producing them -- a nice economy for a busy cabinetry shop.
The style never caught on outside North American and was gradually abandoned in favor of the classic dovetail.
Meanwhile, country carpenters were turning out sturdy and polished dovetailing in their handmade pieces -- but favored two or three large dovetails, fairly symmetrical, over the more delicate and numerous joints in which master carpenters took pride.
The strength of the joint is the reason for its long popularity.
A 17th-century Chinese canopy bed at the Victoria and Albert Museum is held together with dovetailing.
Screws are relative newcomers to the production of furniture, primarily because they are so hard to make by hand.Today, dovetail joints are machine made, and that fact is what helps to pinpoint the age of the chest of drawers from the attic.Machine-made dovetails are thicker than graceful, asymmetrical hand-cut joints.Dovetails are interlocking carved wood joints used in cabinetry to connect two pieces of wood -- drawer fronts and sides, cabinet or cupboard corners.The technique produces a sturdy, long-lasting connection.