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How to Identify an Antique Drop Leaf Table

a close up of several old wooden tables in a line

an old italian drop leaf table

Source: Francesco Scatena/Shutterstock.com

To make the most of your period-style home’s limited space, you have to get creative. You added gorgeous built-in bookshelves with a rolling library ladder and incorporated sconce lighting to free up your tabletop surfaces. But there’s one convenient piece of furniture you might have overlooked – the drop leaf table! 

However, if you want a charming antique style drop leaf table to go with your period home, you’ll need to know what to look for. Here’s how to identify an antique drop leaf table. Plus, five signs the piece is valuable and worth carrying home to restore. 

First, What Is a Drop Leaf Table?

Drop leaf tables feature a hardware mechanism beneath that allows you to raise and lower each outer leaf, extending the tabletop to accommodate extra guests, dishes or whatever you choose. Both versatile and functional, drop leaf tables are used for all sorts of activities and have been around for centuries. In addition, you can find smaller drop leaf side tables with wood inlaid chess boards and expansive dining room tables with drop leafs, too. 

Features of an Antique Drop Leaf Table

an old house that has been newly renovated

Source: Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock.com

Knowing how to identify an antique drop leaf table can snag you a stellar deal when searching around thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales. When you know the features and specific identifiers to look for, a diamond in the rough could find its way home as your next furniture restoration project. 

So what kind of features should you look for? Let’s break it down:

Patina-like Finish – An antique drop leaf table’s finish shouldn’t appear new. While this might seem obvious when looking for any antique furniture, what you really want to look for is a patina-like aged finish. Even with a freshly polished top, you should find some burnished areas in the legs. 

Straight Saw Marks – Like most antique furniture, you can date a piece by its saw marks. Leading up to the early 1800s, saw marks were straight. Anything after was cut with a circular saw. If a drop leaf table has a circular saw cut, it’s not that old, but might still be worth the restoration effort. 

Hand Applied Hardware – Take a closer look at the antique drop leaf table’s hardware, as they offer evidence of a more hand-made furniture piece. For example, was the table constructed with square nails or screws with off-center slots? Handmade hinges can also be a telltale sign the piece is a real heirloom. 

Insignia – Lastly, examine the antique drop leaf table for any type of insignia. Many furniture manufacturers and craftsmen will stamp the piece or add a label of some sort.  

Restore a Drop Leaf Table with Antique Hardware

Is the Antique Drop Leaf Table Valuable? 5 Signs to Tell

a close up of several old wooden tables in a line

Source: Francesco Scatena/Shutterstock.com

Now that you know how to identify an antique drop leaf table, how do you determine if it has value? Look it over carefully and pay attention to these signs and factors:

#1 The Overall Condition

Any antique furniture piece will range in value based on its overall condition. When it comes to antique drop leaf tables, one of the biggest factors to consider is the leaves themselves. 

Ensure that each table leaf raises and lowers properly and that the leaves stay secure when raised. Also, check the hardware to make sure it is original and in decent shape. However, you can always replace it with antique hardware pieces that resemble the original, too. Lastly, check for refinishing, which can affect the value. Remember: You want a drop leaf table with that patinaed original finish.

#2 Any Notable Damage

Look over the antique drop leaf table for obvious designs of damage, such as gouges, scratches and water stains. If the wood is split or cracked in areas, it can affect the overall structure and stability, decreasing its value for sure. A loose leg falls in this category, too.

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#3 The Table’s Size

When it comes to the size of an antique drop leaf table, size plays a role in its value, but only when comparing apples to apples. You may find an antique drop leaf dining table that is substantially larger than a side table, but if it’s in not-so-great shape, the side table might take the cake. So keep size in mind, but do your due diligence and inspect the rest of the furniture piece, too.  

#4 Manufacturer and Manufacture Date

Find an antique drop leaf table with an insignia or label by famous furniture manufacturers such as Vintage Duncan Phyfe and Ethan Allen? Then you might’ve found a winner! Always check beneath the tabletop for notable period-style furniture makers

#5 The Finer Details

Beyond the overall condition, size and brand insignia, a valuable antique drop leaf table – or any antique furniture, really – might offer a few finer details that make it one-of-a-kind. 

  • Hand carved detailing or decorations such as claw feet and wood inlays 
  • Hard-to-find mahogany or cherry wood construction or quarter-sawn oak, American chestnut and figured maple

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