First seen in the 16th century, a gateleg table was one of the most popular choices. Gateleg tables come in all shapes and sizes and are unique. The table has one permanent section with a further two hinged or fold down sections, usually found at the end of the table. These sections can fold away to create a smaller table. They are a type of drop leaf table.
When the legs swing out they will support the folded section of the tabletop. The amount of legs varies, depending on the overall size of the table. Dining tables tend to be larger and were often popular around the Georgian and Jacobean eras. These were mostly made from solid oak wood and have been a continuous favorite of many.
So, what do you need to know to identify the age of an antique oak table?
How to Identify Antique Drop Leaf or Gateleg Table
Drop leaf tables offer the same stance as the gateleg tables, with a few minor exceptions. Usually, drop leaf tables are made up of three sections. There are the permanent fixed middle section and two drop down leaf-style end sections. Some antique tables fold out with the support of another table leg, but that can vary, depending on the exact table. However, some tables offer more stability with the folding leg.
- Look At The Tools Used To Create The Table
One of the most important aspects to look at to age antique oak tables is the type of tools used. Now, this is not as impossible as it sounds. There are lots of ways to determine the type of tools used on the table. Ideally, you want to look for signs of hand planes, chisels, and other such tools. You need to look at how the table was created and whether hand tools were used. For instance, circular saws are noticeable with the circular patterns on the oak. Handmade is often what you’re looking for.
Of course, even if the table is handcrafted, that doesn’t guarantee it’s an actual antique. Some tables are handmade, even today; however, it does help point you in the right direction. More often than not, tables machine-made are usually from a more modern period, say the late 18th or 19th centuries. If nothing else, you’ll be able to rule out one or two eras.
- Be Careful Of A Perfect Table
If you want to find out the true age of a table, you have to look at how perfect the table really is. As said, handmade doesn’t guarantee an antique but it’s a start in the right direction. Ideally, you don’t want to see perfect or exact matching components. For example, the table legs have a specific twist design. There’s a very minor flaw in one leg and that same flaw is seen on all table legs in the same position; that could indicate it was made by a machine and the flaw came from there.
It’s also the same with some cut lines. While the tables look good from the naked eye, they may be slightly off-cut (not entirely straight) and that often means it was handmade. Machines usually have the same cut pattern to them and can offer more precision. Handcrafted can’t offer that so it’s something you want to explore further.
- Look At the Hardware
Despite what you might think, screws have been around for hundreds of years and weren’t made entirely by machine until after 1848. That’s a great way to help determine the actual age of the table. So, does your oak table have screws? If so, are the heads made the same? Do they match? This is important because until 1848 they were mostly made by hand and a hacksaw was used to add the groove to the top of the screw’s head.
What it means is that all screws before the mid-1800s were essentially individually made by hand and were unique to one another. It can help to determine if the table was made before 1812 or after. So that gives some indication as to how old the table is. Also, is the screw made from brass? Brass was slowly phased out in the 1830s so if you see brass, it’s a sign it was made before 1830.
- Inspect the Table Closely
You’re not just looking at the type of wood grain you have but how the table was made. More importantly, you want to look at the joinery of the table. This is a crucial point in determining how old the table is. Remember, if some parts are machine-made, it’s likely to be from around 1860 and onwards as that was when the industrial revolution began and things were manufactured by machines. Also, it can help rule out certain periods from when the table could come from and so you want to look for nicks in the surfaces and other such irregularities.
- Consider The Style of the Table
Every period throughout history has a specific design or style that’s prolific with furniture made from that era. When you want to determine the age of an antique oak table, that’s what you have to look for. So, what style does your table have? Queen Anne oak tables were hugely popular; however, while this period was popular from the early 1700s, some still used the designs until the 1800s. Other eras, such as William and Mary, and Chippendale, and many more, were similar.
However, if you can determine the style, it’s easier to narrow down the era it was made. From there, you can easily determine the age of the table. Of course, you have to ensure the table isn’t a revival or reproduction made hundreds of years later and that again, means examining how the table was made. Let’s say you have an antique Queen Anne oak table, you want to look for the signs of aging and sometimes, it’s the subtle things which determine the age. While style is important, that is only one factor that will point you in the right direction.
- Understand The History of Oak
You want to date vintage oak tables but it mightn’t be as easy as you’d hoped. Remember, oak was hugely popular in manufacturing during the 1600s. Then in the early 1700s, it slowly began to be replaced by walnut and mahogany woods. Generally speaking, it’s more likely oak would’ve been created around the 1600s; however, there was an oak resurgence in the early 1900s so that’s something to be careful of.
Ideally, you need to look at a variety of factors such as the design, the style, how the table was made, and of course, the quality of the wood to determine its age. If you have limited experience in this area, it can be a challenge.
What Are Antique Gateleg Tables Worth?
Gateleg tables can be picked up for as little as $50 (if not less) but genuine antique gateleg tables are potentially worth thousands. Their true worth or value may come down to the actual table and the period it was made. For example, King William and Queen Mary-era gateleg tables could be worth in the region of $3,000. This is, of course, dependent on their exact condition.
However, gateleg tables could be worth anything up to $17,000. Impressive, to say the least, but the truth is that it’s very difficult to put a true value on gateleg tables. It’s hard because every time period has its own unique design and some may be worth more than others. Also, the overall condition of the table may determine the value.
For example, a gateleg table from 1689 has been lovingly restored and maintains the original 17th century style. The oak has been treated well and shows minimal signs of age or wear. The table has also been verified as an antique. Collectors may value the piece to be worth anywhere over $15,000. These may be rarer to find but look amazing in the home.
On the other hand, if a table from 1789 wasn’t restored and was falling to pieces, it wouldn’t be worth a grain of salt. Let’s say you purchased the antique gateleg table and you went through a lengthy (and costly) restoration process. Unfortunately, during the restoration, you removed all of the original design and painted the table bright yellow. Would you still consider it an antique? To be honest, most collectors wouldn’t call it an antique and may be unwilling to pay the value you want.
Remember, value or worth comes down to the condition of the table but also, what an individual buyer (usually a serious collector or dealer) is willing to pay for the table.
Is An Antique Smoking Table A Worthy Investment?
Antique smoking tables are unique because they make wonderful conversation pieces. Also, you can still use them as a smoking table so they can be well worth the investment. However, what you have to remember is that smoking tables aren’t widely seen today but they do offer a lot of promise. These can be used as a side table or as a decorative piece.
Now is the time to invest and antique smoking table can be one of the best to look into, as long as it’s in good condition.
Buying an Antique Gateleg Table
Gateleg tables look gorgeous and are useful and versatile in so many ways. Even antiques have their uses in a modern home. Antique gateleg tables are unique and can add style and value to your home. Of course, if you’re buying an antique, ensure it’s genuine and find out its age – if you can – so that you know how old or vintage your table is. If you want to invest in antique gateleg tables or indeed any antique oak table, learn how to identify the age of those oak tables.