In antique furniture, you can often find things like mortise and dowel joints, wooden pegs, hand-cut dovetails and rosehead nails. Just as perfect looking dove-tail joints are a clue, perfect symmetry in furniture is a sure sign that they are made by a machine. Handmade furniture, on the other hand, does not have a uniform construction; very small differences in size and shape will give it away. In addition, machine-cut parts weren't introduced until the middle of the 19th century.
Handmade work is easy to detect in the carved details. If all the pieces of wood and the hardware match, the furniture is more likely to be a recent factory reproduction. However, take note of the wood used to create the furniture. Are they of different types? For example, if walnut and maple wood adorns the outside of an old piece of furniture and southern pine wood is used behind the scenes, that sounds like a bell for a genuinely antique piece of furniture.
If all the furniture is made of uniform wood, it is less likely to be an antique. Lacquer has been applied to wooden furniture for centuries, and if the piece you're inspecting claims to have the original finish, you might be able to date the piece quite easily. Mahogany Native to Central and South America and the West Indies, mahogany is a popular type of wood used in European-style furniture. However, it is possible that many of the original wood components have been restored leaving the original paint deep in the pores of the wood.
Oak is a very solid wood, popular in joinery, wood turning and almost all furniture construction.