Determining the exact age of any piece of antique furniture can be challenging.
Depending on information provided by the piece itself, you may be able to come within a few years of dating it or may have to settle for a span of 50 years or longer.
Remove all drawers, partitions and moveable pieces to check for possible identifying labels.
Labels may include the names of manufacturers of desk parts such as locks and keys.
Perfectly symmetrical measurements are a clue that your desk was factory- rather than hand-made. Early roll-tops were built of heavy woods such as black walnut, and small local companies might choose from a variety of local hardwoods.Note whether the top and bottom sections of your desk are held together by screws or wooden pegs.Pegs are an older wood-joining technique, one that dated back to pioneers and perpetuated in communities where metal hardware had to be brought in from a distant factory.Not all manufacturers placed labels in the same locations.
Most popular toward the end of the 19th century, close-grained oak was often quarter-sawn, or cut to promote a particularly even grain, reducing the possibility of warping and increasing durability.Mahogany, teak and cherry also appear in old desks, but from 1900 on, most desks were oak.