Staked Furniture in the Americas


Staked furniture isn’t just for Moravians and chroniclers of public health in the Middle Ages.

It’s everywhere – once you open your eyes.

One of my favorite primary sources is Lewis Miller, a carpenter in York, Pa., who chronicled life in the 19th century with watercolors and text. The reason Miller is at the top of my list is he was a woodworker. So when he drew a workbench or a piece of furniture, chances are that what he drew is what it looked like.

So check out the sketch above titled “Christian Rupp and Kunkel, at the dinner Table, 1809.” The table is almost certainly staked. No aprons. It has boards that thicken the top where the legs intersect the top. And a drawer that hangs down.


And he shows staked construction again in this image: “Martin Weiser & wife, 1810, in his Tavern.”

As my house has been filling with staked furniture these last few years, I’ve begun to ask: Why have I not been building this stuff since day one (about 1993)?

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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17 Responses to Staked Furniture in the Americas

  1. Rachael Boyd says:

    I see a lot of this stuff (staked furniture) in old movies as in horror films based in the old country..I plan to try some of it when I get caught up with stuff.

  2. beshriver says:

    A lot of staked furniture seems so odd to me asteticly, especially the three legged chairs, but I don’t know why. As much as I love Tage Frid, I just can’t embrace it. Weird thing is, if you cut the back off and called it a stool, asteticly it seems correct.

  3. York, PA is my hometown and there’s a huge German influence there. It’s certainly not a far stretch to connect the dots with the Moravians.

  4. Brian Smith says:

    Why do the battens appear to run across the grain of the tabletop in the first picture, and *with* the grain in the second picture? Seems like battens across the grain would reduce warping more than battens *with* the grain…

  5. kaisaerpren says:

    I have been a furniture maker since 1982. I have made Windsor chairs and Morris chairs and Chippendales. I have even made banjos and mandolins. My reading is more extensive than my rather extensive personal library. This term “Staked Furniture” is one I have never seen before. what exactly does it mean?

    • LostArtPress says:

      Staked furniture was the name given to pieces that were constructed with a conical (or cylindrical) tenon inserted into a thick plank. Old inventories called these “staked” or “with stake feet.”

  6. brossdesigns says:

    Staked? I can’t even tell if that’s a plate of peas, let alone a T-Bone!! Guess I have to start shoving sticks into planks, too!

  7. How does one attach the cleats cross grain besides the through tenons? With wide boards, I can’t wrap my head around the wood movement issues. I have about 15 small side tables in 16″ 5/4 ash to construct for my art classroom, I have all the staking tools ready to go. Unsure how to do it so they don’t explode!

  8. I’m just watched the Woodwright’s Shop season 12 episode on Moravian chair with sliding dovetails. Seems too be a lot of work for my utilitarian needs. Faster uglier alternatives maybe clenched nails?

  9. Bob Jones says:

    Guess I’m the only one noticing the noses on these characters. Those are some honkers!

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