In many cases the nails are installed in cut outs in the drawer side so they do not protrude above the surface and impede the travel of the drawer.
This is typical construction of the 16th and 17th centuries, including Pilgrim drawers.
For thousands of years, a dovetail joint was created by a skilled cabinetmaker using small, precision saws and wood chisels.
Tiny angled saw cuts were followed by careful cutting by a sharpened chisel on both sides to avoid splintering.
It is a five sided box that must fit perfectly within a case (a six-sided box) and be removable on demand without binding or breaking either the drawer or the case.
To do so it must incorporate some type of suspension mechanism to allow it to travel in and out of the case.
If we find a handmade dovetail joint with only one or two dovetails does it mean we found an early 18th century piece? A good craftsman can still be found to make hand made joints.
So what does all this tell us about the age of a piece?This type of joint is fairly easy to make, requiring no sophisticated tools and is still seen in typical “high school shop” type projects and in lesser quality commercial goods, especially when non-wood compositions are used in drawer construction. One, nails of the 17th century were rare and precious, being individually hand made and two, the joint wasn’t very strong.Toward the end of the 17th century, the Dutch created the concept of the interlocking “dovetail” joint.From the mid 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century a series of experimental, machine made drawer joints appeared, including the Knapp joint and the finger joint but the winner was the machine made dovetail joint.This machine made joint features a series of identical dovetails cut in the drawer front and side and the cuts run the entire depth of the drawer side.