Antique maple bedroom furniture was largely made in colonial America during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Maple was abundant then and colonialists saw the advantage of working with it. Maple is strong, resistant to splitting, smooth when polished and has a decorative grain. The earliest maple bedroom furniture has simple lines as well as the charm of country-styled furniture. Antiques and reproductions add a vintage note to today's interiors.
Early colonialists used oak for making their first pieces of bedroom furniture but soon changed to the more advantageous maple. Until 1725, when mahogany was introduced, maple was the main wood used for furniture-making. Along with walnut and mahogany, it continued to be used in woodworking and, by the early 19th century, was the most popular wood among furniture makers in the country. Among the types of bedroom furniture made were four-poster beds, chests, bureaus and wardrobes.
There are several types of maples used in bedroom furniture. One of the best-known is curly or tiger maple. The grain has a prominent, wavy pattern and, because of it, is considered a "figured" wood. When the wood is sawed across the grain, a flame-like strip is visible. The intensity, consistency and size of these wavy strips determines the furniture's quality. It is important that the finish preserves the grain.
Bird's-eye maple is the rarest and most expensive maple used in bedroom furniture. It is considered a luxury in the timber world. The name comes from the pattern in the wood, which looks like the small eye of a bird. Over time, the outer wood usually develops a rose color, while the inner section is cream-colored or white. The wood of each piece of bird's-eye furniture is unique, which makes it very desirable.
Antique maple bedroom furniture should be purchased with care. Maple furniture made before 1860 was not machine-made. Verifying authenticity should include a check of the dovetail joints, the small triangular units affixing sections. If handcrafted, the joints will be a little uneven. Furniture finish should be shellac; lacquer and varnish were used after the mid-1800s. Sections with great details, like bedposts and spindles, should also be a little uneven. Only machine-made pieces are perfect.
Fine reproductions are available at much less cost than antiques. Today, some high-end manufacturers prefer bird's-eye maple for bedroom pieces. Reproductions usually include the changes and modifications, like increased bed height, that have occurred in furniture-making over the centuries.
- Photo Credit Maple image by Lucia from Fotolia.com antique desk image by Leticia Wilson from Fotolia.com
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