Buying an Antique Chest of Drawers – a Guide

4002aThere are several things to consider when buying an antique chest of drawers. Perhaps the most important is the condition of the piece – do the drawers glide in and out smoothly, are there any loose veneers or handles, does it have woodworm?

A chest of drawers is a functional piece – the drawers need to be robust enough to hold items that you might wish to store, so it’s always worth taking one of the drawers out to have a closer look. Take a look at the drawer bottoms – are they securely fastened to the drawer sides? If not, they will collapse when fully loaded. Also look for splits in the wood in the drawer bottoms – there will nearly always be some in an antique, caused by natural shrinkage, but they should either have been filled with a wooden fillet or, as is often seen, taped with fabric to prevent things slipping through. As you push the drawer in the very last inch does it “clunk” [technical term!]? If it does, the drawer runners are worn and will need replacing by a restorer – otherwise damage will occur to the carcase.

Check also for loose feet, and have a look at the backboards – these are nearly always constructed of a softwood, such as pine, but should be firmly secured. There should never be any plywood anywhere – this wasn’t used until the 1930s, so has no place in a Georgian piece. Finally, run you hand over the top to see if there are any loose veneers. Marks and scratches of age are perfectly acceptable [as long as they are not unsightly] and often show that the patina is original. Too bright and shiny and it will probably have been repolished, which not only devalues the piece, it rather destroys the point of buying an antique!

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