"Thoughts on Wood Joinery" --by RusticWoodArt

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Blog entry by frank posted 04-30-2007 03:34 PM 1651 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thoughts on Wood Joinery

And so I thought I would write a little on the subject of: How do you join that wood? In what I am writing here I mean no disrespect to any workers of wood by calling some way as better or an-other way as lesser, but I am only trying to show that if one will pay attention to or take heed to their own calling, then the way will open up before them as to what works best in their attention to woodworking detail.

—-been there, done that….hammered and air gunned nails, (common and finish) brads, screws, because ‘they said’ it would not work other ways and so I became a follower of others….

—-used their new glues since these were supposedly better then what had been….

Do you get my drift….? Until I questioned and went to see for myself, and yes that means one has to be willing to build a table, build some furniture without the use of metal fasteners, one will never know that wood joinery can be done and will make a lasting fit!

This process is called ‘wood joinery’ and has been going on for thousands of years….and is found dating back to the early years of Asian temple building. If one looks into the temple building, furniture and carpenters of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1616-1911) dynasties and of that before, one will start to scratch their head in awe of these workers of wood. It is the Asian cultures that gave us some of the greatest works of ‘wood art’ and many of these temples are still standing today. The timber framers of post and beam in China, Japan, India…..etc. are the ones who developed the art of wood joinery without metal nails and then came the furniture builders who built without metal nails or glues, and many of those works are still with us today.

—-one can build furniture and one can build and attach table tops with nails and brads, screws, dowels, pegs….etc., that will stay tight and together and one can also build this way and have a piece that will come apart….

—- one can build furniture and one can build and attach table tops with wood joinery that will stay tight and together and one can also build this way and have a piece that will come apart….

—-one can do all the above and use the new glues of today, the early glues such as hide glue and even make your own rice glue and have furniture that will in time stay together or fall apart….

—-well, say, I …...........; but I do know because I have done the above and had those classic scenarios happen to me!

Again let me say this and as I say this, let the words roll around in your mind, as you chew the cud of the words I say:

1) you must ask yourself; how much are you prepared to pay (and this does not necessarily mean money, but time!) in finding the answer out for yourself?

2) what will you do with the answer, once you have found it?

3) when and where will you go in order to search out the meaning of your own ‘integrity’ as a woodworker? short this is asking one to go and find their own way.

Now, since some will want answers on what types of ‘wood joinery’ will accomplish the feat of joining furniture, chairs and table tops together without the use of metal fasteners, and if you achieve success here, then you can try it also with no glue,....then I will name some:

a) ‘through pegs’

b) ‘blind pegs’

c) ‘offset pegs’, also called ‘drawboring’

d) ‘wedged through tenons’

e) ‘bind’ or ‘fox wedged tenons’

f) dovetailed tenon, splayed and wedged

....and on one of these ‘wood joinery’ technics I wrote about in my blog on Friday, while not naming the type or all the how to of design. Ha!....what really surprised me was that after thirty six reads, no one asked about the joinery process I was talking about.

I make rustic benches and benches of ‘wood art’ to sell, and what it really comes down to is that I must make what sells. If I spend weeks making a wooden bench and join the legs with wood joinery that uses no mechanical or metal fasteners and then go on to create a wood joint that is not seen and will never be seen….what glory is that? An example of this is the ‘fox wedged tenon’ which once made and fitted will not come out, you cannot do a dry fit, so you had better get it right the first time or else you may loose a leg or top. And then after the work is done and completed, the customer and woodworker both have no joinery to show off, so again no glory. A lot of good woodworking ‘wood joinery’ will never be seen again once it is buried within the piece of wood. And what about the time one will spend making these joints and no one will ever see them? How does one price this knowledge and what is the price I can sell this type of wood bench for?

What I have learned, is that it has taken me years to learn a few of these, which I do by hand and then one comes to understand that there are around four hundred wood working joints that Japanese carpentry has given us and many are still in use today. Up against four hundred I soon realize that I know very little and I am humbled by the art of ‘wood joinery’. So now I ask myself how many will pay three thousand to five thousand dollars for this piece of ‘wood art’ that some might call a coffee table….but let me ask you, if you payed that kind of money for a coffee table, would you ever set a cup of coffee on it? And so then I can also try calling it a ‘prayer alter’ but who is going to burn incense on it at that price, much less knell their and pray for that that price? And so I am left with a piece of wood that now I must find a way to market!

Next comes the realization that I can also build a rustic bench which will be joined with screws and//or glue and I can sell this piece with some exposed wood joinery for five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars. But then what happens to my integrity when I stand in front of the mirror and look at myself.

What I have learned, is that woodworkers at shows will ask me how I do a piece of joinery, and yet when//where I used to get excited about sharing this information, I have since learned, that when I start talking about the all it takes….’the process’ just becomes to hard and so over they go across the aisle, to the way of doing by machines and jigs. And to tell you the truth, I do not blame them since that is where the money is. ‘problem-of-opportunity’ is that one day, I heard the wood speak and show me a way to walk that has so become a part of me, that I can not go back to where I once was! be continued, maybe—-if and when?.........

Thank you.

-- --frank, NH,

2 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4190 days

#1 posted 04-30-2007 03:55 PM

so wonderfully put!

When I started this journey I just wanted some nice little storage boxes in my house. As long as they looked nice, I didn’t really care what the “how” was. But with my increased experience I’m starting to care. Perhaps at some point I’ll make some boxes that may be worth selling—and then I’ll really care.
As my woodworking has taken me into the realm of “rustic” I care even more—screws just don’t have much of a rustic look to them. And so my skills will have to follow my goal.

So what should one do? What they feel is right for the work that they are doing. No guilt. No regrets. No shame. “To thine own self be true”.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4328 days

#2 posted 04-30-2007 05:33 PM

Keep it coming Frank.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

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