In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Question: Why doesn’t your article recommend pinned mortise and tenon, at least for the back three pieces? Instead you show pocket screws.

– Pam Niedermayer

Short answer: Because that would be a tricky or weak solution to the problem we faced.

Long answer: The original Gustav Stickley #79 magazine stand was available in a few different configurations, but most of the ones Bob Lang and I have viewed (in person or through photos) are characterized by the top and bottom shelf being attached to the sides using a twin through-tenon that is pinned at both the front and back. Racking forces are kept in check by the two lower stretchers.

How the middle shelves and lower stretchers were attached is unclear. There is no evidence of dados (stopped or through) or tenoning (in the case of the lower stretchers). We suspect dowels, which would make sense from a manufacturing standpoint.

The originals do not have the shelf supports that we added at the back and pocket screwed in place.

The idea behind our adaptation was to simplify and strengthen the case and try to keep as much of the original grace as possible. To simplify, we substituted stopped dadoes for the twin tenon. To strengthen, we added the shelf supports.

We settled on pocket screws because they are simple and mechanical. Tenoning the shelf supports into the sides wouldn’t be much of an improvement over pocket screws because the tenon would have to be very short – 5/8″ long at most. A short tenon like that alone wouldn’t give you a lot of face-grain gluing surface.

And because the tenon is so short, it would be tricky to pin it, especially for beginners, which is who the article is aimed at. The pin would have to be small in diameter to work. And because the tenon is so short, there is the risk of it ruining the tenon when the case was subjected to racking – essentially popping out the bit of end grain on the end of the tenon.

Pocket screws seemed the best solution because you can precisely fit the supports after assembly (unlike with dowels).

If I were building this for myself, I would have used the twin t hrough-tenons at the top and bottom and again screwed in the shelf supports. Despite my aversion to pocket screws in general, this seems a good use for them.

– Christopher Schwarz

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