I love joinery.
There is something magical about fitting two or more pieces of wood together.
Before the advent of mechanical fasteners, joinery reigned supreme. At that pre-industrial time is was the cheapest, fastest and strongest way of building with wood. As nails, bolts and screws became less expensive they began to displace joinery for building with wood. Mechanical fasteners required less skill and were faster. Thus the products produced became less expensive and the structural and aesthetic compromises were accepted as “progress”. Machines too brought an end to joinery’s reign. Some joints that can be “easily” cut by hand are either impossible to cut with a machine or the setup is too costly. So joinery was simplified or abandoned to accommodate mass production.
I have no intention of delving into a philosophical diatribe on the pros and cons of the industrial revolution. My intent with the preceding was to give context to the modern way of looking at wooden structures, be they buildings or furniture. The general public, i.e. non-woodworkers, give little to any thought as to how something is assembled. Even most woodworkers rarely look beyond the basic joints. Dadoes, mortise and tenon and dovetails will serve quite well for building furniture. Especially when you factor in the use of adhesives. There is more joinery out there though.
To my mind there are only two ways of joining one piece of wood to another. The lap joint and the mortise and tenon. All subsequent joints are variations of those two basic ideas and thinking of them as such can go a long way in understanding and employing even the most complex joinery. A simple example being the dovetail joint. It is just a variation of a lap joint. There are infinite variations that can be made, but it still is just a lap joint. My intent here is not to diminish the complexity of joinery, but to change the way we look at it and hopefully make even the most complex joint accessible. This will in no way give you or I the skill to create that joint however. The only way to gain skill in executing joinery is to actually cut the joints. No amount of reading, video watching or class taking can substitute for hands on. Those other things can flatten the learning curve but experience is the only way to proficiency.
So…my plan is to document the joints that I use or plan to use. The focus will be primarily on joinery that lends itself to furniture making. There are wonderful joints employed in timber framing, but they are impractical in furniture making. Although, I might explore some of them just for the fun of it. An additional focus will be on the practicality and utility of a joint. I have no intention of using a joint just for the sake of using a joint. The joints that I choose to employ will be for structural integrity. Sometimes the joint may add an element of aesthetics, but utility is the primary focus. For each joint that I use I will post a drawing that covers the layout and document the important points to know about that joint. I will also post photos of the execution of the joint. Will my joints be perfect? Heck no! Several of these will be new to me and you will see all the errors that come along with the learning process. My intent is not to teach anyone how to make a joint, but to record my journey and bring you along. Hopefully you will find something of use or inspiration.
The drawings that will accompany this journey will be in a different style than what I have posted in the past. Along with documenting familiar and new joinery, I will also be trying to teach myself a new method of illustration. So I hope that you will bear with me as I stumble along with that process. Feedback is always appreciated. If my drawings do not effectively convey the intended information, than they are of little use to anyone.
Now the disclaimer.
I am not an expert. I have not apprenticed with any great master woodworker. What I post is my best guess as to the layout and execution of a joint. My best guess is based upon what I have seen in photos, read, seen on a video and actually put to practice. Nothing, I repeat, nothing I post should be taken as holy writ. Your welcome to follow along, but do so with caution and skepticism.