This ancient mortise-and-tenon joinery technique needs no glue, no clamps.
by Jennie Alexander & Peter Follansbee
The excerpt that follows is adapted from “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,” a new book by Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee (Lost Art Press). While the book teaches you start to finish how to make a joint stool, many of the techniques you’ll learn therein are applicable in the modern shop – perhaps none so much as drawboring.
Drawboring is a method used in 17th-century joinery that is still valid today. That a mortise-and-tenon joint can be permanently secured with no glue and no clamps is hard for some modern woodworkers to swallow. But all it takes is some careful planning, a brace and bit, and a tapered wooden pin. Jennie Alexander and I have been very fortunate to closely study many examples of surviving woodwork from the 17th century, and have worked repeatedly to try to mimic the tool marks and techniques we saw there.
In Our Store: “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,” by Jennie Alexander & Peter Follansbee
Article: “A 1600s Joiner’s Tool Kit,” by Peter Follansbee
Article: “The Best Oak Money can Buy,” by Peter Follansbee
Blog: Read “Joiner’s Notes,” Peter Follansbee’s blog. Read more
The cost of this stock is physical exertion, but it’s fun and rewarding. By Peter Follansbee Pages: 38-43 From the October 2011 issue #192 Buy the issue now VIDEO: Watch bodger Don Weber split a log. BLOG: Read Peter’s blog on period shop practices and joinery. TO BUY: “17th Century New England Carving,” a new … Read more
Straightforward work with V-tools and gouges creates a lively result. By Peter Follansbee Pages: 51-55 From the June 2009 issue #176 Buy this issue now Seventeenth-century New England joiners produced a variety of furniture forms; the most common surviving pieces are carved boxes and chests. The joined chests’ structure is a frame-and-panel format: often three … Read more
Period inventories offer a tantalizing glimpse – but not the complete story. By Peter Follansbee Pages: 22-23 From the June 2010 issue #183 Buy this issue now Seventeenth-century joiners made furniture in a style quite different from what came later. Their work relied almost entirely on frame-and-panel construction featuring mortise-and-tenon joinery. Nails played a big … Read more
Panel seat requires beefy tenons for support.
By Peter Follansbee
From the October 2010 issue # 185
Buy this issue now
Seventeenth-century chairs come in many styles: plain turned chairs with woven seats, carved joined chairs in leather or wool, and one particular type of chair that is a little unusual these days – the turned chair with a board (really a panel) for a seat.
These chairs come in both four-legged and three-legged versions, from fairly austere to extremely complex and decorative. They can be made of ash, beech, fruitwoods and yew. Typically they are made with large-scale components, resulting in a massive appearance. The four-legged variety was made in New England during the 17th century, and, although there are many examples of three-legged ones surviving in England, there is no evidence of one being made in New England. I usually use ash for the turned parts, and any hardwood board for the seat panel. Oak is my first choice; I’ve also used elm or cherry.
I often make the three-legged version; it is challenging and fun to make, and it always gets a lot of attention. The geometry involved is a little more sever than with the four-legged chairs, but not all that different. The distinctive element in these chairs is the joinery at the seat-rail height.
The joinery in three-legged chairs with board seats differs from four-legged chairs with woven seats. On a fiber-seat chair, the seat rails are at staggered heights; thus the tenons do not interfere inside the posts.
Web site: See more of Peter’s work and read his blog.
Web site: Discover more about Plimoth Plantation.
Blog: Read Adam Cherubini’s Arts & Mysteries blog.
In our store: We feature a three-legged Chinese stool in the Winter 2009 issue of Woodworking Magazine. Read more