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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Knapp Joint

One way of telling the age and place of manufacture of a piece of furniture is to look at the way that the drawers are constructed. The dovetail joinery on the sides where the front of the drawer meets the sides can tell you a lot. for instance, if the piece was made in the U.S. or England. Also a hand cut dovetail usually points towards an older piece. Most modern joinery is done with a machine.
Creating a machine to cut those joints was not an easy task. During the 19th century, as furniture production became more and more mechanised, furniture companies tried frantically to create a machine that would cut dovetail joinery with limited success.

One of the people working on this was Charles B. Knapp of Waterloo, Wisconsin. What Mr. Knapp did was to question the form of the dovetail and opted for an entirely new design. Called the Knapp joint, the joint consists of integral dowels and half round mortises in the face of the drawer and a half-round "tail" with a hole drilled out to receive the dowel on the drawer sides. Below is a photo of this joint: Mr. Knapp completed the joint making machine in 1867. In 1870, he sold the rights to some investors who sold the machine under the name "Knapp Dovetailing Company" located in Northampton, Mass. By 1871, Furniture companies on the east coast primarily were using this machine to further speed the production of case furniture. Nearer to the turn of the century, the furniture this was used on was cheaper and by 1900, the machined dovetail was in use. This information gives a very specific window of time when dating Victorian furniture. Most Eastlake period case pieces will have this style of joinery. I will say this, I find that if I need to disassemble a drawer made from this joint, it does a pretty good job of staying together!


  1. Good day ! i have a 2 pîece set with knapp joints...one dresser and a shorter dresser...is there a date ..between when and when ...they where produced...curious

  2. marcjannard_1@hotmail.com

  3. I picked up a bachelor's chest at a yard sale. While cleaning, discovered that the piece has the knapp joint. I looked the piece overfor marks or labels. Found "case 62". Where can I look to ID this piece?

  4. I just purchased a wash table with this dovetail design . While the Knapp joints are perfect , the rest of the cabinet is all rough-sawn on the inside . It has a marble top w/backsplash and two candle shelves . The front has burled walnut bump-outs . Anyone seen anything like this ?

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  6. i have a dresser from "The New England Furniture Company" in Grand Rapids, MI. It has the Knapp Joints on the dresser drawers. The dresser, however, has a wooden top, not faux marble. I don't want to do anything with the finish even though it does need work both appearance and structurally. I'm wondering what I can do with it. nrgrassl@live.com Thanks!!