A Platform, a Box or Both


“Nearly all articles of free-standing furniture are variations on two basic shapes: a platform or a box.”
— John Gloag, “A Social History of Furniture Design: From B.C. 1300 to A.D. 1960” (Crown).

One caveat, Mr. Gloag. Some pieces of furniture are both a platform and a box.

As I finish up “The Furniture of Necessity” book, I’ve started to play a little game with myself. It’s called “S$%^w Dovetails.” I try to figure out how to build a piece of furniture without dovetails or other high-class joinery.

In other words: Can I build solid, solid pieces with only staked joints and some nails?

Today I designed a bunch of beds. I could have designed these beds by making boxes with nails alone, but then they would look too much like platform waterbeds. At the Schwarz household one Christmas we ALL received waterbeds. (Did I mention that I become easily seasick?)

I’m going to build some of these beds when I return from Boston and before I head to England. But my little design game has also made my pencil go nuts with sideboards, dressers, desks, couches and chairs.

Clearly, I’ve given myself over to my odd ideas about furniture and am wallowing in my own… pig excrement at this point. But the option is to wallow in someone else’s historical excrement, which could have more corn kernels than is to my liking.

— Christopher Schwarz

Note: I removed the suggestion of a very coarse word in the text above. Not because anyone complained (no one did), but because I had intended to soften it before publishing and forgot. Apologies.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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17 Responses to A Platform, a Box or Both

  1. Wesley Beal says:

    That offer to buy you a beer or three while you’re out in Boston still stands. Let me know if so, and we can find out if your and my schedule permits it!

    Question in advance of the book: do you think the simplified joinery makes this style a good entry point for beginning woodworkers? or does the lack of sophisticated joinery demand more experience and skill? or different skills? Or, when is this book coming out again?

    • Wesley,

      I contend that you can build an entire house of furniture with a staked joint and nails. You need far fewer tools and skills than with traditional joinery.

      I think this book will go over like a Led Zeppelin, but I’m sold.

      Stop by the school one day and we’ll figure something out. I’m there for seven full days!

  2. I am ludicrously psyched for this book. I want to make every piece you’ve shown.

  3. David Cockey says:

    Based on your recent blogs, Furniture of Necessity will be a very different book from the one you described at WIA several years ago.

    • Yes and no.

      It is still an exploration of the forms that have remained unchanged for the last 500 years or more. It is still an exploration of the construction techniques and tricks that brought these pieces to life – if you were at the WIA in Pasadena, Calif., then the explanation of the 16° constant employed in Moravian stools is still in heavy play.

      What’s different? During the last two years I have explored many 20th-century forms that are on the same trajectory.

      I really don’t know who will like or hate this book. We’ll print a few and see what happens. But I do know that – as I stated at that WIA – this is my life’s work from this point forward. For richer or poorer and etc.

  4. To be followed by “the Anarchist’s Tool Belt”.

  5. Damien says:

    Furniture is not the same for everyone, I see a third category: frames. Roubo’s furniture makers for example are described as frame and paneled frame builders. A bed can be a frame hung with rope or a platform made of boards . I guess that scarcity vs the limitless availability of high quality boards can switch furniture making to a different style.

  6. A good place for a pint in Beverly is Barrel House, or Gulu Gulu across the bridge in Salem. For coffee try Atomic Cafe, not far from the school.

  7. I think this would make an excellent modern style bed. 😉

  8. Josh says:

    Will the book include plans for a bed like this?

  9. Please clarify… Is all the furniture in the book made only with staked joints and some nails?

    • There are other simple joints. But the goal is to show how far you can go (and how far people went) with the simpler methods.

      There are no dovetails.

      • KampWood says:

        Except for the sliding ones? Like the staked work table you just made?

        • I’ve always thought the “sliding dovetail” is a misnomer. It has little nothing in common with the corner joint of the same name.

          So yes, there will be a couple sliding dovetails. But you won’t need to cut them with a dovetail saw.

  10. Bob Jones says:

    I’m in for at least one copy 🙂

  11. durbien says:

    New T shirt slogan?

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