Modern furniture manufacturers may mimic designs of years past, making furniture dating difficult for the average consumer. The legs of tables and chairs have changed throughout history and can serve as a guideline to determine the age of furniture. By conducting a thorough visual inspection, as well as feeling the legs of the furniture, you can determine the relative age of any furniture piece.
Examine the legs to determine the potential time period the piece was made. Furniture with claw-and-ball feet was made in 1700 to1730. Straight, tapering legs, as well as heavy, outward-curving rear legs on a chair may indicate it was made in 1800 to 1840. Windsor chairs, made from 1700 to present, have turned or cabriole legs.
Feel the legs of the furniture. Rub your fingers over each leg, paying special attention to the smoothness. If there are rough or sharp edges, this may be an indication of a recent manufacture, according to cilss.org.
Look closely for saw marks. Furniture manufactured after 1840 may have a distinctive curved pattern that is left in sawn wood by the teeth of a circular saw.
Remove and examine a screw. Legs attached to a chair or table with screws that have sharp points and regular, evenly spaced threads are new. Antique legs may be attached with handmade screws that have irregular widths between the spirals, and the slot in the head may be off-centre.
Look at the bottom of the feet. Antique tables and chairs do not have metal or plastic taps on the bottom of their feet. Older furniture pieces will show genuine signs of wear on the underside of the feet.
Inspect a table underneath, where the legs meet the table top. An antique pedestal table may be reinforced with a hand-hammered metal disk or tripart metal strap where the legs join the table top. Twentieth-century tables may be reinforced with large staples.
Antique gate-leg tables will have four turned stationary legs with two additional legs underneath the table that swing out to support the leaf.