Arts & Crafts Through-tenons


Accurate work depends on three things: location, location and location.
By Dale Barnard
Pages: 34-37

From the June 2010 issue #183
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One of my favorite Arts & Crafts details is the through-tenon at the top of a table, bookcase or chair. When I was considering adding a joinery class to my curriculum at the Barnard Woodworking School, I thought of this joint. I prefer teaching joinery techniques while making a simple project rather than practicing on scrap wood.

Most of the through-tenons in antique furniture are in chair arms where the wood movement isn’t an issue because there is only one tenon in the board. It’s when there are two tenons with side grain between them that it becomes an issue. If you look at a magazine stand or music stand you will see the sides of the cabinet have vertical grain, and the sides can be simply glued to the legs, long grain to long grain.

Another application of the through-tenons on legs is the “round top tabouret” or tea table, seen in the photo at right. Some versions of the original antiques didn’t have the throughtenons on the top because they had hidden rails locking the tops of the legs in place.

I prefer to add the through-tenons to the top because it adds visual interest and communicates the satisfaction I get out of performing the feat. When I make these, I eliminate the hidden top rails; the bottom rails are sufficient to make the table strong and the legs will flex enough to allow the tenons to move with the top.

If you look at an old reproduction catalog of the Arts & Crafts furniture of the early 1900s you will see the through-tenon like this mainly on chair arms; the venerable Morris chair, many dining room arm chairs and several rocking chairs as well. We build a Grove ParkInn rocking chair in a class and it didn’t have the through-tenon on its arms, until now. I added that feature to make the chair more interesting, and to add a challenge and a new technique for most students in the class.


From the June 2010 issue #183
Buy this issue now