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A drop leaf antique table is a table with two sides that are hinged to drop down when not in use. This aids in storage and makes the unit easier to move. When searching for a drop leaf antique table, it is important to find one that fits this style and is in good enough condition to be useful or at least restored to a useful condition. Most antique tables that fit into this category will be made from wood, and the wood is very often a hardwood that is durable and attractive. Look for a drop leaf antique table made from such woods.
Some of the oldest drop leaf antique table designs featured four legs that were fashioned by turning, or rotating the piece of wood while a cutting tool was used for the design. The table's legs were often connected with horizontal stabilizing pieces, and the leaves that folded out were supported by additional legs that swung outward when in use. This was known as a gate leg table. Such tables were often made of walnut, though some others were commonly made from maple. These tables will more than likely be quite expensive, as some can date back to the 17th century. When not in use, it would fold and lean against a wall.
After that design, a new design became common in America. Butterfly tables did not feature full fold-out legs as gate leg tables did, but instead featured a wing-like fold-out that supported the leaf. This design was not as stable as gate leg tables, but it was far more aesthetically pleasing, and the table itself was generally more compact. They were common around the early 18th century. Swing-leg tables were popular for a short time, though these tables were less functional than other tables because they only featured two fixed legs and one leg that swung outward. They were common in the mid to late 18th century. Pembroke tables were common after that; these featured drawers on either side of the table, and elbows underneath the table that supported the leaves when in use. When choosing a drop leaf antique table, be sure to consider whether the design matches the time period in which the table was commonly used.
Be conscious of how much restoration costs will be when you purchase a drop leaf antique table. Some antique tables will need quite a lot of work to be functional, while others will need less work or none at all, especially if the table will only be a showpiece. Buy from reputable dealers when possible, but keep your eyes open for rare finds at estate sales or yard sales as well.