Some furniture and cabinets built by commercial shops are held together with the equivalent of snot, paperclips and the coat of film finish on top.
Some pieces are even crazier than that.
A few weeks ago I spent most of a week holed up in one of the units at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village outside Harrodsburg, Ky. It was great to be surrounded by the inspiring architecture, decorative objects and the furniture of this colony.
But on my first morning there I visited the store where they sell reproductions of some of the Shaker pieces built by the colony in the 19th century. What I saw there still has me a little bit in denial. I hope I am wrong.
One of the nice originals at Pleasant Hill is what they call the “Saturday Table,” a small side table with tapered and faceted legs. No drawer. Just simple and nice. We published plans for it in Popular Woodworking a few years ago, and Kerry Pierce published plans in “Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture” (Popular Woodworking Books).
Pierce built the piece like I would have: The aprons are tenoned into the legs. The top is attached to the aprons using hand-cut pocket-screw holes (just like on the original).
While in the store, I turned over a couple reproductions of the Saturday Table. To my eye, it looks like the aprons are joined to the legs using staples. Then the aprons are pocket screwed to the top. To give the maker the benefit of the doubt, I tried to peer into a couple of the small gaps between the legs and aprons. Surely there must be a tenon in there. Surely these staples are there only to hold everything together as the glue dries.
But I saw no tenon or even the shadow of one. I saw only a narrow sliver of light that indicated there was no wood-to-wood joint between the apron and leg.
If my vision is correct, we should all grieve.
— Christopher Schwarz
12 thoughts on “Table Joinery. Really? You Can Sell That?”
Dang, I got a stomach ache after reading this article.
Thank the Lord above for them that still care…..
Was there a "made in Bangladesh" sticker on there somewhere?
Staples are for keeping sheets of paper together. That would be structural malfeasance if no tenons exist. Probably the only way to know for sure is for Megan to hop-up and perform her scientific jumping test.
By the way Chris, it would be an interesting article for you to write about the places you’ve gone and NOT flipped the furniture for examination. I’m guessing that would make for a pretty short piece? There should be a name for flipping furniture and putting it in the prone position as you are prone to do. It’s a pretty dominant move really. Maybe you’re genetically predisposed (I almost used prone again) towards furniture-tipping? Does it run in the family? In any event, your fits of furniture CSI always seem to reveal something interesting about the craft and the times… so keep on tippin’ (referring to furniture, beers, and animals of your choice)
I remember a few years back when I first started learning about woodworking, and we were shopping for bedroom furniture for my older boy at the same time. We stopped by a Pottery Barn Kids, where they had a kids bed for around $800-900. I was telling my wife that one reason that they were charging so much was that they had used through tenons in the construction of the headboard. (I had just learned about M/T joints, so I was showing off my new-found knowledge.) Then I took a closer look and found out that what looked like a through tenon was really a small piece of wood glued on so it looked like a through tenon.
It should be labeled Shaker Fauxniture.
Careful not to remove the golden oval sticker indicating the country of origin – the sticky adhesive is used for a bit of the joinery as well.
This is furniture made to a price point.
What we should be grieving about is that people are unwilling to pay for well made objects of any kind.
Low price has triumphed over value.
ew, desk held together by snot? Now I just lost my appetite LOL
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I was at Pleasant Hill many years ago and did the same thing and discovered basically the same thing back then, and the price point I thought was very high, verrrry higggh!!! If you have a chance check out some of the so called "Amish" furniture, it has to be made in china!!!
What he isn’t telling you is that those are hand-carved staples made of black locust. An ancient tradition first described by Roubo on a page that was stuck together just after the workbench illustrations. The gap is there to allow for seasonal wood movement. This little table will last for ages.
If you really want to either laugh or cry, depending on your opinion of Arts and Crafts furniture styles, check out Stickley Furniture’s current offerings from their original plans.
Hey the local elementary school has got to sell the shop projects hand made by students somewhere or else the public schools would have really high student teacher ratios….um….er…nevermind.
Hmmm, kinda sad actually. Surely the shaker workshop in Mass. offers basic joinery on their stuff? http://www.shakerworkshops.com/catalog/index/shaker-furniture/
I always assumed they did because they sell kits complete with sandpaper , glue & finish materials that you assemble yourself.
Wonders how much they are asking for that "Saturday Table", 50-75 bucks maybe? Considering i recently bought at auction a Canterbury NH 1840 shaker tilter side chair with cane seat in PRISTINE condition for $500, that repro saturday table has just gotta be less than $100?
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