Dovetail vs. Peg Construction in Antique Furniture

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Dovetail and peg construction are two methods commonly found on many pieces of antique furniture. Learn the differences between dovetail and peg construction in antique furniture with help from an experienced interior design professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Antique Furniture Care
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Jane Brown from Jane Brown Interiors and, and I'm here at this secret little find in New York called Furnished Green. And I encourage you to come visit and check out their antiques and vintage ware. It is such a treasure trove of things. And today I'm here to talk about the difference between dovetail and peg construction. Firstly I'd like to talk about dovetail. Why I love dovetail firstly is the name. I find it really romantic, dove. And I was about eight years old when my dad showed me about dovetails. And dovetails look like a triangle. This is a fantastic system of attaching wood and has been around for a very very long time, probably since about the 16, 17 hundreds. So how to tell a piece that's really old prior to 1860 unless it's made in someone's backyard, is the dovetail will be really irregular. There obviously won't be as many because that was very labor intensive. And you'll see the rawness and the authentic-ness of the dovetail construction. 1860 was the invention of the circular saw. That seems a long time ago now, and that's when we came in to the uniformed dovetail construction because obviously they were easy to cut and there was the uniformity of putting them together. So that's all about dovetails. And you'll know that it's a good piece as opposed to a stapled piece because of the dovetail construction. The other type of construction that you will find in antique furniture is what's called a mortice and tenon, and it sounds like tendon without the d. So it's tenon, t e n o n. And this is what's called pegged construction. Unfortunately the piece I had here was sold yesterday. So I'm just going to explain it to you because it is quite a simple method of seeing of how the wood is constructed. So as opposed to the dovetail construction, a mortice and tenon has a piece of wood that goes up. it also has then a hole in an adjoining piece of wood and the tenon goes through the mortice and you can see that's like a very secure mechanism for holding that wood in place. Now what we then use is a peg to hold that. So then we have a peg that inserts in the top here. And that's called a pegged construction. So it stops the actual piece from falling down or becoming dislodged. So if we didn't have the peg holding it, it would be dislodged. So this is called a pegged construction and it's an incredibly strong reinforced construction of how to hold two pieces of wood together. You won't find it that often, but it's a really wonderful system where they used to use, to put pieces together around the 17, 18 and early 1900.


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