Building staked furniture sometimes feels a lot more like an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” than a typical day in the shop.
At assembly-time, the legs have to be knocked home hard to firmly seat the the conical tenon in its mortise and make a bit of a mechanical interlock. I’ve been making sample joints all year and sawing them apart to see what is going on inside.
The theory? Staked furniture and cut nails work the same way. If you use a hard wood for the legs and a soft wood for the top you can deform the wood fibers in the top to grip the conical tenon. That way glue become less of a factor.
During this class at Highland Woodworking, I told the students to hit the legs hard at assembly. How hard? Hit each leg so hard that the top would split if they hit it again. And I told them I would buy a beer for anyone who split their top.
Note: I had to buy myself a beer.
My sawbench has a nice crack near one leg now. The joint is still together, but I can’t wait to saw that one apart and see what happened inside.
— Christopher Schwarz