The Society of American Period Furniture Makers

Tools and Techniques => Period design and construction => Topic started by: rococojo on October 10, 2008, 11:38:58 AM

Title: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: rococojo on October 10, 2008, 11:38:58 AM
Question,How would the top of the chest in the attached picture been made? The chest is 68" tall so I assume it would be visible.
On a period chest, (68" tall, for example), The sides are carried through by 2" at the top.
The top carcass is housed to the sides, with a staggered blind ¾’long mortise joint.
 A front & back insert pieces is mortised at both ends, then fixed with screwed to the carcase.
 The sides are then housed into the top board, (just as top carcass is housed to the sides)
 It having a 2" overhangs to front & ends, which is then molded.
 After gluing up.
 A 1-1/2" concaved mould is run around the top edge, and fixed with cut brads, on the concave.
 Note: The concave of mould being veneered to hide the fixing brads, and add decoration.

Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a pioriod chest
Post by: Adam Cherubini on October 10, 2008, 12:09:04 PM
Jo,

Having a bit of a language problem.  Are you asking us or telling us?  And not sure what you mean when you say "housed" in this instance.

Pieces I've seen that look like this are usually a single carcass.  Grain runs vertically on the sides.  The top and bottom join the sides with dovetails joints.  Bottom will alwasy be through dovetails concealed by the base molding.  This sometimes necessitates a filler piece to rise the lowest drawer above the molding.

The top is sometimes through dovetails, sometimes half blinds.  I seem to think the through dt's are a Chester County PA  practice.  In Philly, halfblinds would be more typical. 

The drawer dividers were attached with sliding dt's into the carcass sides.  The corners were sawn out of them and the corner column and sometimes a filler piece was added there.  This varies in Philadelphia pieces I have looked at. 

I hope I am answering the question you are asking.  There may be an exploded view of a chest like this in Jeff Greene's fine book "American Furniture of the Eighteenth Century"

Cheers

Adam
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a pioriod chest
Post by: rococojo on October 10, 2008, 01:47:58 PM
Hi Adam, the housed or Housing Joint = a Trenched Joint with short a Tennon added, I was replying to an earlier post? That was asking how the top would be fixed secretly,(No nails) I was stating my way of Cabinetry,this is how I would do, to achieve this goal, if one asks for an answer, I try to answer wisely, not Tell, just Inform, sorry if I offended. Whilst you are correct with Ordinary carcase work, dovetails at all corners, trenched in shelves (or Housed) etc.
 but how do you secretly fix your Top as shown in the example.
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a pioriod chest
Post by: MikeWenzloff on October 10, 2008, 02:48:51 PM
You ask "How..." and if you would be asking me, it would be with either through or HB DTs.

I think a question is *why* attach the top "secretly"? Doesn't seem to have been done often in the period from what I have seen. I have seen some where a stopped sliding DT was used. I doubt unless I was attempting to replicate a certain piece that way that I would bother doing it that way.

I think for myself, the same goes for the trenched/stub tenon idea. Unless I was replicating a piece made thatta way. I wouldn't do it.

Here's why. I think the top would have zero (or little) attachment strength, being utterly dependent upon the glue bond. Once the glue begins to embrittle (assuming hide glue but even modern glues) then the top would be left to separate or break further away fromt he sides due to seasonal warpage.

Do you have period examples that used trenched tenons? Or is this theoretical?

Take care, Mike
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: rococojo on October 10, 2008, 07:27:50 PM
This is the question?
If the plan states that the top is on view (polished), as this one indicates. Then that is a very good reason for constructing it in this way, No other reason.
A fault thread can be found with most things, as the maker the decision is with you, which Joints are used, the original poster said how was it done?
 Just take for example?
 A secret slot screw joint? (H in attachment) that is used, so no visible fixings are showing, it may twist? It will usually, but we have to keep the customer happy. End
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: rococojo on October 10, 2008, 08:30:35 PM

Hi Mike, I cannot take any credit for the design of this joint, I attach a design of a stopped end (B left) the joint follows this example.
 Just a thought! If I needed more strength, (glue failure), I most probably would: Fox Wedge, the front and back tennon’s.
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: MikeWenzloff on October 11, 2008, 12:31:44 AM
Hi Rococojo,

Yep, if a plan calls for it or one can see a piece that does not have obvious through joinery then there is a need.

It seems to me that sliding DTs would be the most obvious means for a non-through joint in lieu of an example built using other means.

I think the examples are not typically used for joining a top to carcass sides. I hesitate to say they were never used as Scandanavian work of at least the late 1800s and early 1900s Modern furniture did used both rebated tenons and slotted screw joins for tops to carcasses.

Just uncertain English furniture of earlier periods would have been made that way.

I have made a few drinks cabinets using tenoned rebates. These were all early Scandanavian designs. I never did trust the original means (the rebated tenons) and so fox wedged a couple. Pretty fussy means and obviously one has only a single chance to put it together. I sweated a lot during glue up.

Other Scandanavians used sliding DTs in the early 1900s and that was the method I used even when the original didn't. A much better connection. Easier in the long run to make a stopped sliding DT.

Krenov used the rebate and tenon method on a couple pieces iirc. At least a few early students of his did. But the scale of the pieces is much smaller.

Take care, Mike
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: rococojo on October 11, 2008, 03:48:44 AM
Mike, This is where you and I differ somewhat, you agree if a plan states, its made  that way? Well that is the only correct solution? If you agree it’s correct.
 Other wise a adjustment is required to the plan.
 Now it seems to me, you’re a follow-me-leader, if you are copying an example. Well I stand on my own on this.
 Not if it’s incorrect.
 I ask of advice if its need, then move forward,and tweek as I go.
 You also mention Mike the Scandanavians quite frequently, well this design is French inspired.
 I as Chippendale did in his day, take the good & try to make it better (if possible) in my day.
No one give any praise at first? it has to be won.
 Chippendale’s workshop was torched in 1755, but he stood tall, and collected his witt's, believing his day would come; otherwise there was no point. 

Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: MikeWenzloff on October 11, 2008, 06:21:07 AM
I think that while I am more than willing to copy dead guy's stuff, there were certain things I chose not to do something as they did because I did not trust their method.

In Scan stuff, there is some things built cross-grained, for example. Weak and prone to breaking. Those things I chose to make differently--as did some of their peers. I do not consider changing something inherently wrong like this incorrect when others of the same period did it "better." Yes, it is "wrong" in the sense the piece I chose to replicate did it another way. But it wasn't "wrong" in the sense I chose another more appropriate means to accomplish the same design aesthetic.

I have a couple books of furniture made in the southern US that show tops that were doweled to the carcass sides. Most all in these books constructed that way had tops that had cupped and showed gaps at the join. I plan on someday making a couple of those pieces. I won't copy their method of top attachment. I also do not feel my change will be inauthentic to the period as other pieces accomplish this join elsehow. It is inauthentic to the particular pieces, I admit that. That is a change I will gladly accept any criticism over.

Should I even build a Chippendale or French piece that shows a rebated/tenoned top/carcass join, I would still choose a different means of attaching the top. I don't mind making something better than dead guys.

All the best.

Mike
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: rococojo on October 11, 2008, 06:56:22 PM
Hi Mike, you eco my feelings exactly with your common sense approach, but the question I was answering in this new post, was how that top was secretly fixed in his photo, as it was not apparent, and no x-ray available.True there are other joint that could be used, other my example, but I picked the most obvious for that, Period, Day (The Mortise & Tennon joint). That was not to state another way could not be used? Havens-for- bid.

All my best
Joseph

Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: MikeWenzloff on October 11, 2008, 07:32:57 PM
Hi Joseph--your last post is the most clear as to the *Why* of the original question and that there is an example. Isn't communication over the internet great?!

Still don't know what original piece we are attempting to discuss. If it is the Penn. chest in your first post, there is no way of telling from the photo as to its construction.

The molding is applied. If one didn't want through DTs to show on such a short piece, one would have used half-blind DTs and the molding would cover them on the sides. From the few books I have on the period it seems that is the primary way it would have been done.

From the back, the only place one could see the join of the top and sides, it would mearly look as if they were butt jointed. Unless the side molding was removed one could not determing whether the construction is as you propose or if they were HB DTs.

Interesting to think about. Thank you for posting.

Take care, Mike
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: msiemsen on October 11, 2008, 09:01:54 PM
My experience with a Pennsylvania Chest like the one in the photo is the same as Adam's. All the ones I have seen were dovetailed top and bottom and the dovetails hidden by the moldings. I would be very surprised to see it done any other way on a period piece from that area.
Mike
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: rococojo on October 12, 2008, 04:41:23 AM
Mike + Mike, are you looking at this image?or your memory of this Pennsylvania Chest,  This top board is 7/8" thick,and is over shooting the ends by 2+" at each end, so there is NO way any kind of Dovetail Known to man(or woman) That could be used.

 End  Joseph
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: MikeWenzloff on October 12, 2008, 06:13:35 AM
What appears like overhang is the applied molding.  All of it. At least on a period example.

I don't know who made the one in the picture. Did you? Or is a picture of a period one or one made by a contemporary maker?

If this wasn't made by you using the construction you are advancing here, and if you have another picture of the 3/4 view or full-side view, I think you'll find the molding on the sides show face grain, not end-grain. Therefore it would prove it is applied molding.

Take care, Mike

Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: rococojo on October 12, 2008, 11:27:15 AM
Mike, first I didn’t make this piece, so I attach a sketch, of constructing this my way, remembering the top is polished, no apply molding would be polished? As a crack would appear front & 2 ends, unless it was veneered to mask the joint’s, but that would be bad design in my book. I leave deliberately the way its screwed or doweled together, Because that is down to each maker?

Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: MikeWenzloff on October 12, 2008, 12:36:08 PM
Hi Joseph,

The first sentance of the first post asks this question:

"Question,How would the top of the chest in the attached picture been made? The chest is 68" tall so I assume it would be visible."

I think everyone has answered it in the context of the beginning of your second sentance:

"On a period chest, (68" tall, for example),"

I think that is why we each answered as we did. Doing this task the way you've drawn isn't a period thing as far as I can tell. And I did do some more leg work and research.

I now understand that the drawing in your last post is simply how you *want* to do it. That's fine. I think it would work well.

However, it just might be more work and carry greater risk--imagine messing up the top through either missing the dado with the carcass sides, error in mortising the top (mismatch to the carcass tenons), or mucking up the molding.

fwiw, one can see the joins of the applied moldings. I do not see a problem with that. It is a time-honored means of construction and to mee does not in any way detract from the piece.

I would be interested in seeing the piece you plan on making using that construction method.

Take care, Mike
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: rococojo on October 12, 2008, 07:34:36 PM
This method of construction, as been used in English furniture design since time began, am I correct to think you are not willing to accept any other than what you have seen or made yourself? Just not willing to accept. That is no way to learn or improve, we never know it all.
I have seen, repaired many Period pieces, done just this same way,
Ill enquire to see if can take a photo, I'm not convinced you will believe then.

have a great day, joseph
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: msiemsen on October 12, 2008, 08:42:20 PM
rococojo,
Part of the problem here is in your final post
This method of construction, as been used in English furniture design since time began, am I correct to think you are not willing to accept any other than what you have seen or made yourself?
This is "The Society for American Period Furniture". The piece you asked about is an American piece of furniture and that is how it was done. There is no opinion of superiority or unwillingness to learn. It is just a simple fact that that is how it was done over 200 years ago in Chester County, or Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, America on that piece of furniture. There are many examples of American period pieces where the tops are attached differently. If the question is how was it done, then you have been given the answer, if the question is how could it be done now, or how was it done in England, that opens up the discussion as to other options. That piece of furniture was probably originally made for a Quaker, some one who would have regarded veneer as an unnecessary adornment and not purchased the piece if it was done in the fashion you describe. So while you may not approve of the pedestrian methods of the colonials, it is still how they did it and always will be how it was done. You cannot change the past, no matter how wrong you think they were.
Mike
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: MikeWenzloff on October 12, 2008, 08:59:04 PM
Joseph,

I think you need to read through not only your first post as regards the Penn. piece you originally posted about, but also my responses.

I wrote that I have done this when copying pieces made that way. I also wrote that I didn't like it, didn't trust it. So on pieces I subsequently did, I attached them differently.

I also wrote I was unaware of the method you described being done on 18th century pieces and simply asked to be shown.

There is no need to get defensive nor offensive. Like I wrote, please do show me.

Take care, Mike
Title: Re: The secret jointing of the Top of a period chest
Post by: dkeller_nc on October 13, 2008, 10:31:22 AM
Just for a point of reference, there are some case pieces in MESDA that have overhanging tops.  As near as I can tell from reference books (The Furniture of Charleston, Furniture of Coastal North Carolina), these overhanging tops were either attached with blind sliding half-dovetails (the dovetail on the case side, the groove cut perpendicular to the grain on the underside of the top), or screwed to battens half-blind dovetailed into the top of the case sides.

Both methods strike me as a bit of overkill when the top can simply be half-blind dovetailed or even through dovetailed to the case sides, and the joint covered with applied molding.  You'd have to be very tall to actually see the dovetails on the top of a case piece of American colonial furniture - even the shorter examples.  From what I understand, our ancestors were a good deal shorter in the 18th century than we are today - 5'-10" would've been a tall man.