Author Topic: Joining a top to a dovetailed box  (Read 4007 times)

FJDUFF

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Joining a top to a dovetailed box
« on: November 30, 2009, 04:44:32 PM »
All,

I'm starting a desk on frame for my daughter but the design she has chosen (a copy she liked) is a bit different.  Instead of the fall front, her desk will be 31 or so inches deep and will not be closed as a fall front would enable.  The sides will have a nice Roman ogee sweep from back to front.   I made some notes when I viewed the original and I am sure that the sides, front and back are all long grain in their long dimensions, and so the four elements are dovetailed together with through dovetails.  No problem with that!

Now the question, what is the bast type of construction to attach a top?  It needs to be flat so that things can rest on the surface, but yet the joints must stay tight.  Th only thing I can think of is a frame and panel kind of thing.  I don't recall that type of construction on the original and I have no notes other than is is 11.5-inches deep. 

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Thanks
Frank Duff

Bob Rozaieski

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Re: Joining a top to a dovetailed box
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2009, 07:42:16 AM »
Nails? How old was the original? Do you have a picture? If the top was just a solid board, it may have just been nailed on.

Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd.

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Re: Joining a top to a dovetailed box
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2009, 08:20:09 AM »
I made a W&M desk.  The top on the original was just glued and nailed to the sides.

Dennis Bork
Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd.
Professional period furniture maker since 1985.  Received a B.S. degree in physics then apprenticed and worked as a wood patternmaker for 12 years. Cartouche recipient 2009. Retired Dec. 2018.

albreed

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Re: Joining a top to a dovetailed box
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2009, 01:00:49 PM »
Frank- If the top overhangs the sides the ideal attachment is cleats fastened to the top and set in a dado in the sides. This allows for the top to move. If the top is set into the sides then you have to allow for movement and so a panel of som sort would allow for this.-Al
Allan Breed

FJDUFF

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Re: Joining a top to a dovetailed box
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2009, 10:37:37 AM »
Bob, Dennis, and Al,

Thanks for your replies.

My concern in posing the question was that addressed by Al in that the top, which DID NOT OVERHANG THE SIDES on the original piece, would be cross grain to the sides, and therefore the joint with the sides could work loose, particularly at the front edge, where it would be most visible.  This assumes that I would glue it to the back since the grain direction would be parallel along that edge.

Dennis, how did that nailed joint hold up over time?  What was the width of your top?  The top on my piece will be 11.5 inches wide and so movement in cherry is expected. 

I have a nice wide board for the top and so, Al's suggestion of extending the top and using a cleat sounds attractive since it would permit me to stay with the solid board.   Al, I believe that what you are suggesting is a cleat which would b glued to the side and to the front edge of the top and then have some additional "sliding" joint further back to hold the top tight to the side while allowing the top to move with respect to the side.  Is my understanding of your suggestion correct?

Thanks
Frank Duff

albreed

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Re: Joining a top to a dovetailed box
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2009, 12:24:41 PM »
Frank- The cleats i was thinking of are blocks about 3/4 X 1 X 2 with a 1/4" tenon on the short side flush with one side. The cleat is screwed to the underneath of the top and the tenon engages with a mortise cut into the skirt. Allowing a little space between the shoulder of the tenon and the skirt, the top can move in and out with the seasons and still be held down tight against the skirt.-Al
Allan Breed

Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd.

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Re: Joining a top to a dovetailed box
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2009, 02:09:34 PM »
Frank,

The top piece was about 7" wide.  I glued it along the back and part way along the sides.  I used wrought head nails to fasten it to the sides and to give it an older look.  It is Desk #07 on my web site, www.AntiquityPeriodDesigns.com

Dennis Bork
Professional period furniture maker since 1985.  Received a B.S. degree in physics then apprenticed and worked as a wood patternmaker for 12 years. Cartouche recipient 2009. Retired Dec. 2018.

Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd.

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Re: Joining a top to a dovetailed box
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2009, 02:11:05 PM »
Frank,

I forgot to say that I also used glue blocks on the underside of the top.

Dennis Bork
Professional period furniture maker since 1985.  Received a B.S. degree in physics then apprenticed and worked as a wood patternmaker for 12 years. Cartouche recipient 2009. Retired Dec. 2018.