There’s No Shame in Nails

Adam Cherubini, our Arts & Mysteries columnist and blogger, and a contributing editor to the magazine, generated quite a buzz at the Woodworking in America conference with his talk on nailed furniture. I’m sad to say that I wasn’t able to make Adam’s talk (maybe I was ranting about the nefarious Cult of the Perfect Dovetails at the time?) – but through my (long-neglected) graduate work, I’m quite familiar with the “Worshipful Company of Joyners” and the “Worshipful Company of Carpenters” in early modern London, and the legal stipulations about which guild could do what kind of work (and court cases for alleged violations thereof).

In a nutshell, joiners could cut complex joints; carpenters could use mechanical fasteners (read: nails) and employ simple rabbets, dados, grooves and the like. (I feel certain the carpenters would share my pique with the purely modern Cult of the Perfect Dovetails…but that’s another blog entry.)

No doubt Adam went into far greater detail on the differences – and with far more flair, not to mention example pieces and glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one – so I’m hoping we can convince him to write about the topic for an upcoming column – you know, for those of us, myself included, not among the 200 or so people who saw his presentation. Boarded furniture (that is, the kind carpenters were allowed to make), has a long history and it is every bit as good as that constructed with what is now considered by some to be “superior” joinery (i.e. dovetails, mortise-and-tenons, etc.). And it’s a valid approach to modern joinery.

But until we can get Adam to write about it, you can join the nailed furniture discussion (and a subset thereof on the nails themselves) on a number of woodworking blogs and message boards, including Kari Hultman’s The Village Carpenter (who kindly gave me permission to use her photograph of Adam above), Peter Follansbee’s Joiner’s Notes, Shannon Rogers’ The Renaissance Woodworker, Bob Rozaieski’s Logan Cabinet Shoppe … and a bunch of others I’m sure I missed (for which I hope you’ll post links in the comments section!).

And, you can check out our I Can Do That projects (which are free online for those registered on this site), many of which fit the definition of boarded furniture. All the projects for that column are constructed without complex joinery, and most of them look quite nice…if I do say so myself (the “Pegged Shoe Rack” notwithstanding). And while one of the first pieces we made for that column, the “Country Toy & Tool Chest,” hasn’t yet withstood 300 years, it has nicely survived the roughhousing of two toddlers…which according to their mother is about the same as three centuries’ wear.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. Speaking of I Can Do That…mea culpa. I misstated the lumber buy for the “Tool Tote” in the November issue (the cut list is correct). I said to pick up a 6′ 1×8, and you actually need to purchase an 8′ 1×8 to have enough stock for the tote’s bottom. And, I wrote that the curve on the handle is an arc of a 16″-diameter circle; it’s actually the arc of a 32″-diameter circle…so a 16″ radius. I hope my middle school geometry teacher isn’t reading this.

8 thoughts on “There’s No Shame in Nails

  1. Joe Cunningham

    Some of these are great weekend projects for experienced woodworkers too. There were also many in “Woodworking” but I’m not sure if you are allowed to mention them here. I liked the slant-sided sea chest, and might make that an upcoming furniture project.

    BTW, I couldn’t get the .pdf link to work in the the “Country Toy & Chest” project. Things must have moved around on the server since posting that project.

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Oh sure – we’re happy to talk about projects from WM! I like that sea chest, too – and so does Chris – he bought it at one of our sales (Glen Huey built it) and it’s in use as a coffee table in his family’s living room.

      Sorry about the PDFs – those are being fixed right now.

    1. Publius Secundus

      Yup. Just like that paragon of virtue, George Washington, another man illustrious in American history admitted “I put that envelope under that garbage,” thereby inspiring new generations of school children. Think on it as you manuever the shovels and rakes and implements of destruction.

      1. Fred West

        I was so glad to read that I was not the only one to catch the Alice’s Restaurant reference. It is one of my all time favorite pieces and I play it at least three times every Thanksgiving. :o In the last few years, I had been surrounded by a lowly educated group who not only had not heard the song and indeed not even heard of it. Thank you Megan and the rest of you for bringing me back into a land where this song matters. :o Fred

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