When mentioning that Chinese woodworking does not use glue I always get the question how to edge-joint without glue.
On a recent trip to Southern China I had the opportunity to see a very nice example on what it looks like.
The Perl River Delta (roughly the triangle spanned by Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Macau) is quite pleasant in Winter but extremely hot and humid in Summer. Since electricity is quite expensive people there tend to use the AC orders of magnitude less than in the US. This puts quite a bit of stress on wooden furniture.
We noticed that one of the two beds in the apartment developed bad mold. Further investigation showed that one bed was completely made out of particle board the other had key parts made out of zhangmu (camphor). Moreover the bed made of camphor did not use glue.
Removing the mattress (which is surprisingly thin and rock hard, the first night is painful, eventually it becomes quite comfortable) it turns out that the mattress is simply supported by a wooden board.
The interesting part, at least for me, came when removing the board that is made up of three sub-assemblies.
Each sub-board is consists of 4 or 5 camphor planks that are held together with two tapered dovetailed clamps.
I have no information about the origin of this bed other than it was purchased locally, and most likely was built and assembled by a local carpenter shop using whatever tools were available.
In my opinion this is a clear example where traditional methods (edge-joint boards assembled without glue) are vastly superior to it’s modern equivalent. Or in other words, methods that are perfectly appropriate for say Rochester, MN, are completely inappropriate to the tropical climate in Zhuhai, China. Unfortunately in the name of progress these traditional methods are rapidly disappearing.
BTW, the holes you see in the bed posts are not because this is a bunk bed (it is not), the holes are there to attach sticks to the bed posts that hold up the mosquito nets.
Thank you for listening.
-- Chris Scholz, Arlington, TX, www.Galoot-Tools.com