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The slow and laborious crafting and carving, one piece at a time, by a master woodworker was not suited to the new mass market.Steam power, transferred by pulleys and leather belts, operated saws, carving machines and routers that could copy an original pattern exactly.Genuine hand made dovetails like these were the standard of good furniture craftsmanship until about 1870, when American ingenuity developed the “pin and cove” or round style dovetail, often seen on late Victorian and Eastlake furniture.These were cut with a jig or pattern, and an apprentice could create a very well fitting and attractive joint. European cabinetmakers continued their hand-cut dovetails well into the 1900's.Dovetail joints often hold two boards together in a box or drawer, almost like interlocking the fingertips of your hands.As the dovetail joint evolved through the last one hundred thirty years, it becomes a clue for the age and authenticity of antique furniture.There was resistance - in England, carpenters unions went on strike over the use of electric saws, fearing the end of their livelihoods.
In the 1890's, American furniture began to be mass produced, with interchangeable parts and speedy production for the growing and affluent middle class.
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.
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.