Depending on information provided by the piece itself, you may be able to come within a few years of dating it or may have to settle for a span of 50 years or longer.
A wide variety of resources can help you come close to dating an antique roll-top desk.
A master carpenter or other woodworking expert can help you distinguish between stain and grain.
Janet Beal has written for various websites, covering a variety of topics, including gardening, home, child development and cultural issues.
Seek out local historical societies and museums, which can be generous sources of information on area craftsmen and period merchandise.
Like other kinds of furniture, desks were sometimes stained to fit into a decor scheme or to make plain wood appear more elegant.
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