Help me find out what these antique pieces are...
June 20, 2009 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Antique Furniture: Two beautiful antique buffets. Wondering how to describe them, types of wood, coloring, hardware, etc. Any help would be appreciated... photos inside

I bought these two gorgeous buffets at an auction recently, and would love to know if anyone knows any specifics about them.

Images of both buffets
posted by MMALR to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
I think the first one would be considered < french provincal.
posted by kimdog at 8:16 PM on June 20, 2009

I believe this is Queen Anne style, with cabriole legs, the decoration on the knees of which is probably hand-carved. The top is a special form of book-matched veneer which is split in four and matched on two axes rather than just the usual two; it actually has a name, but I can't remember what it is. Well, it's probably veneer; they are seldom hewn from a solid plank. My best guess as to wood is cherry (lovely red tone, varicolored streaking), thought it could be mahogany (I'm not as familiar with that wood). I started to call it a bow front, but am not certain of that designation. The doors are divided light leaded glass. That's about all I've got. Oh, except the corners of the drawers (which look like their made of oak) are held together with dove-tail joinery.
posted by miss patrish at 8:28 PM on June 20, 2009

I looked at all the pictures. They are unfortunately not antiques. they are reproductions of antiques. I would guess 1940 to 1970. The carved corners you detail in photos are giveaways and the quality of the hardware is also. You are going to hate me but I'm getting hotel furniture vibes from them. There are rudimentary stabs at conveyeing qualiity in the build. The basic dovetails (rough), the scrolled veneer boards inside the cupboards. These are that eras equivalent to say Drexel Heritage type furniture. Nice middle class furniture. An expert would point out how wide the grain is in the drawers ends. Old growth trees and the lumber that came from them have a much tighter grain whereas newer mass produced furniture used and and still uses fast growing plantation trees. Some or all of it does appear to be cherry wood. Not sure that some of it isn't oak though too. to their credit they are in very good original condition and appear to have not been refinished. The bookmatched veneer is nice and indicative of mid range quality mass produced furniture of that era. They are called sideboards I believe and would of course be in the dining room. They are pleasant enough and will give many more years of service. Not something you can say for IKEA.
posted by Muirwylde at 9:23 PM on June 20, 2009

Oh, and I believe the term Miss Patrish was thinking of was 'quarter-sawn' bookmatched veneer.
posted by Muirwylde at 9:33 PM on June 20, 2009

Response by poster: I know they are definitely reproductions, but I was sort of looking for style descriptions, etc.... maybe what they could be worth.
posted by MMALR at 9:48 PM on June 20, 2009

Actually, no, quartersawn refers to how the mill cuts up the log. Quartersawn boards tend to warp and cup less--be more stable--and in oak, they show a lovely flecked pattern. But to my knowledge, the term is not applied to veneer (I could certainly be wrong; there's a first time for everything . . .HA!)(Ahem.)

When I read kimdog's suggestion of French Provincial, it occurred to me that I didn't really know the difference between the two--bow fronts, cabriole legs, shell and scroll decoration--so I've been poking around online; are they just different names for much the same style? Both seem to have had their heyday mid- to late- 19th century, if I'm understanding correctly. Reproductions of F.P. seem more likely to have some sort of painted finish, while Q.A. seem more likely to sport natural wood with maybe stain and varnish.
posted by miss patrish at 10:06 PM on June 20, 2009

Yes Miss Patrish. Quartersawn does refer to lumber. Veneer is thinly sliced lumber used in inexpensive furniture to convey an expensive look (often layed up over an inexpensive substrate; for instance, cherry veneer over oak) or to use very expensive woods that may be endangered like Hawaiian Koa. My reference in this instance was correct quartersawn and bookmatched veneer. The pieces referenced are worth about $450.00 each. They are mash up of various styles circa 1960's hence the difficulty in identifying definitively . FWIW I'm a former antique store owner.
posted by Muirwylde at 11:24 PM on June 20, 2009

You can't do that four piece match without using veneer. Book matched, sure - just find two planks that came off the log sequentially and glue them edgewise. If you do that with a four way match, you'll loose your match (since the faces of the boards were a couple inches apart) and you'll be gluing end grain to end grain which doesn't really work very well. (This is why X-rays of Greene and Greene furniture are so interesting - they do things that don't seem like they should work. The reality is, they didn't do them at all, they used screws and steel bits to trick you into thinking they did.)

Looking at the pictures, #8682 is the one that suggest to me that it's an older piece. In particular, look at the tool marks on the board in the upper right corner (the bottom back of the carcass). In any kind of modern shop that strip would have been cut with something like a table saw. That might be joiner chatter (and if it's a series of little curved cuts with ridges at the top, sort of like this, forget what I'm about to say) but it looks more like what you'd get from a band saw (which would be my last choice of what to make a straight cut with in a furniture factory), a walking beam saw, or some kind of frame saw.

In pictures 8684 and 8685, the half-blind dovetails, you can see the mark from a marking gauge. In any kind of modern environment you'd use a router and a jig. You wouldn't have to lay out a depth - you'd set the router bit to that depth. If you're hand cutting them, however, layout is critical. Today, you might see someone do the layout mark and then cut it with a machine to look more old worldy, but in post WWII America that uniform "run of the mill" effect was what everyone was going for. Hand made was old and dreary.

The way the keyhole in the fitting and in the drawer face don't line up in 8686 suggests that the hardware my not be original - take a couple off and see what you find behind them.

My guess is that these are 1920's or earlier.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:00 AM on June 21, 2009

They've been using veneer forever, it does not detract from the value or quality of a piece, unless the substrate is mdf, or worse some kind of particle board (which I've been seeing more and more of lately.)

The hardware looks like painted cast iron, either that or the brass is so tarnished someone decided to paint it. But it is painted.

The dovetails are handsawn, as Kid Charlemagne said, a good sign the pieces are probably late 19th or early 20th century.

Nice bookmatched mahogany veneer on the tops, and most of the exterior wood on the carcass looks like cuban mahogany due to the depth of the figure on the wood.

I work for a repair shop that does a lot of business with antique dealers and I could picture this stuff being sold for anywhere from 1k to 10k a piece depending on what age the appraiser determines them to be.

Maybe more, thats some beautiful mahogany on the one with the doors.
posted by Max Power at 7:10 AM on June 21, 2009

I'd agree that the dovetails are hand made, but that could have been a common practice in the 1920's. I'd say these are good reproductions made in that timeframe.
posted by Gungho at 7:33 AM on June 21, 2009

Response by poster: Sooo... we have no real idea on an era? 1920's seems to be popular along with WWII era.
posted by MMALR at 11:16 AM on June 21, 2009

When you speak of era do you mean style of the furniture, or a timeframe in which it was made?

Whatever the case it's primarily mahogany and has beautiful figure in the solid pieces, door frames, etc, even the veneer on the door panels are nice, and chances are that the door panels may even be solid. In addition they are from one piece of tree, not planks of wood or strips of veneer glued together.

A restoration would add value, a refinishing would devalue the pieces.

No way WWII, its earlier than that.

How did you come about them? If I had money laying around I would snatch them right up.
posted by Max Power at 12:16 PM on June 21, 2009

Response by poster: Well, I'd like to describe them to prospective buyers as accurately as possible, and there are no appraisers in this area really. I know of one, but I will need to find out their price for appraising them.

I came about them at an auction as I resell furniture, mostly modern stuff. I bought them for fairly cheap, but I'd like to resell them. I'm not sure where to price them though.
posted by MMALR at 12:35 PM on June 21, 2009

There are things you could do to get a really good estimate of age, but it's not really stuff that's going to work well over the internet. I'd start with a really good magnifying glass and looking at all the tool marks I could find. Less work done with power tools suggests and older piece, but most of the wood you can actually see has been finished so the tool marks are gone.

This means taking things apart somewhat. If it's all done with hide glue (and it may be - that would be another clue) you can loosen things up with a little heat and moisture and tap the thing apart and expose all kinds of unfinished edges. The thing is, there are tons of ways to screw this operation up and God help you if someone fixed something with Elmer's yellow wood glue and you try to knock that joint apart with wet heat and a mallet. In other words, I am not recommending that you do this! In fact, I'm saying that unless you are the furniture guy on the antiques road show, don't do this!

First thing I'd do is take out all the drawers and shelves and give them a once over. Look for any writing or burned in or incised trade marks. I'd also consider pulling one of the locks and looking for a stamped trademark on it (which would at least give you a "no earlier than" date). If that gets you nowhere or you still want more information, I think you're in the realm of professional appraisal or a tracking down specific books on the subject.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:56 PM on June 21, 2009

Response by poster: Took some of the handles off, no luck there. They are definitely cast iron, painted. Definitely handmade dovetail joints.

The hinges on the doors are replaced with newer hardware. Overall, the finish is unbelievable. It looks absolutely gorgeous once cleaned up from the dust. I'm just real uncertain how I shoul d price these pieces.
posted by MMALR at 4:12 PM on June 21, 2009

I am in Chicago.

In antique and vintage furniture stores I have seen sideboards like this go for a grand, give or take a couple hundred dollars. At the Salvation army and similar thrift stores they go for about 250-450 depending on the person pricing them and the amount of wear.

I am not an antique dealer, just a guy who inherited three+ households of furniture that ranges from early Empire to late 1940's aesthetic-mis-mash stuff and has to traipse far and wide looking for parts, pieces, and nubbins to fix all of it noticing prices along the way.

I am wondering if there are any marks, though.
posted by Tchad at 10:48 PM on June 21, 2009

Response by poster: I scoured the two pieces for marks, didn't find any.
posted by MMALR at 6:37 AM on June 22, 2009

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