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The use of hand tools and hand-cut dovetails is now the province of hobbyists and a few small shops creating authentic replicas of antique furniture.
This over-view of the dovetailing techniques should easily help identification and dating of most furniture from the last 200 years.
These routers were ancestors of the electric precision tools of today, and could be used to rapidly cut a machined dovetail joint.
Each cut is exactly like the others, each tail and pin are exactly matched.
The earliest examples are from furniture placed with mummies in Egypt thousands of years ago, and also in the burials of ancient Chinese emperors.
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The type of dovetailed joint, especially in drawers, reveals much about furniture construction and dating.
With just a little study of these examples, it is easy to spot true hand made construction vs. The name dovetail comes from the appearance of the joint, resembling the triangle shape of a bird's tail.
A close inspection shows no irregular saw cuts or variation from a skilled craftsman, but rather a precise and identical manufactured machined joint.
These machine-cut dovetails are as strong and long lasting as the hand-made joints, and became the standard of better American furniture ever since the late 1890's.