The ‘Nubs’ and ‘Firewood’ Theory

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In many pieces of staked furniture, you’ll find extra bits of wood lurking beneath the top that thicken up the joinery area, adding strength to the entire table. I call these – for lack of a better word – “nubs.” Sometimes they are rounded; sometimes rectangular.

In many Moravian and Swedish examples, these nubs are clearly battens that ride in a sliding dovetail – a very fancy and permanent joint.

But in many images from the Middle Ages, the nubs look too round to be sliding dovetails. My first thought was that the nubs were just sections of a tree branch split down the middle. But that seemed crazy to suggest without evidence.

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So I was happy when I received the following image from Richard O. Byrne of a table for sale at an auction site – see the whole listing here.

The nubs are clearly sections of a branch or juvenile tree.

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Also good news: A photo of the top shows that the nubs are attached with nails. You can’t get any simpler than that (I think).

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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12 Responses to The ‘Nubs’ and ‘Firewood’ Theory

  1. Len Kuffert says:

    And quite a low piece as well – 74 cm.

  2. tpobrienjr says:

    My dad built me a desk made of a slab door, some “nubs”, and four hardware-store legs. The legs were tapered, and mounted with dual-angle steel mounting plates. It lasted a long time, but is gone to Goodwill (GTG) now.

  3. The limb “nubs” kind of make sense. Obviously green wood, they would shrink with time, and secure the leg tenons that much better, not to mention the nails.

  4. Seems the legs don’t pierce the table top at all, and are pegged/nailed trough the nubs. Could be made to break down? Thanks for the research!

  5. Richard O. Byrne says:

    Chris – some great examples for the PALLAR (STOOL) collection – NUBS – these show real thickening detail

    https://www.bukowskis.com/sv/lots/581601-pallar-5-st-allmogestil [image: Inline image 1] [image: Inline image 3]

    [image: Inline image 2]

  6. Richard O. Byrne says:

    MORE STOOLS – LOVE THE LINES ON THE BACK STOOL WITH THE CURVED THICKENING –

    THIS IS WHERE WE CAN REALLY BUTT INTO FURNITURE HISTORY!

    https://www.bukowskis.com/sv/lots/648576-pallar-5-st-allmogestil

    [image: Inline image 1] [image: Inline image 2]

  7. Richard O. Byrne says:

    NO, FROM BEING A POLYMATH

    On Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 9:58 AM, Richard O. Byrne wrote:

    > MORE STOOLS – LOVE THE LINES ON THE BACK STOOL WITH THE CURVED THICKENING > – > > THIS IS WHERE WE CAN REALLY BUTT INTO FURNITURE HISTORY! > > https://www.bukowskis.com/sv/lots/648576-pallar-5-st-allmogestil > > [image: Inline image 1] [image: Inline image 2] > > On Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 9:17 AM, Lost Art Press <

  8. Richard O. Byrne says:

    THE “SOLID BOWL” SEAT BOTTOM (BACK LEFT) IS ANOTHER WAY OF THICKENING – SHORTY LOOKS LIKE A MILK STOOL WHICH OFTEN HAVE A GRASP OF SOME SORT ON THE SIDE SO THE MILKER CAN GET UP FROM MILKING WITH THE STOOL IN HAND. MY DAD HAD ONE BACK IN THE IN THE1940s https://www.bukowskis.com/sv/lots/589762-pallar-5-st-allmoge-18-1900-tal [image: Inline image 1]

    On Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 9:58 AM, Richard O. Byrne wrote:

    > MORE STOOLS – LOVE THE LINES ON THE BACK STOOL WITH THE CURVED THICKENING > – > > THIS IS WHERE WE CAN REALLY BUTT INTO FURNITURE HISTORY! > > https://www.bukowskis.com/sv/lots/648576-pallar-5-st-allmogestil > > [image: Inline image 1] [image: Inline image 2] > > On Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 9:17 AM, Lost Art Press <

  9. Sergeant82d says:

    If you’re confident in your splitting ability, you could drill clear through the log before splitting it, then do the split at the 10-15 degrees from perpendicular… And have the table practically done… *I* couldn’t do it… But I bet a green woodworker of some experience could.

    • Justin Tyson says:

      As a woodworker with modicum of greenwood experience, I can assure you that the more prudent move would be to bore the holes after splittling! 🙂

  10. therealdanh says:

    It appears that the legs can move/rack in their nub joints. One of the photos on the sales website clearly shows that the ends of the significantly warped top are not parallel. Yet all 4 legs are resting on the floor, although several appear to be at different angles to the top/floor. A thin board is nailed across one end holding it reasonably flat, which may have contributed to the stress that has twisted the thin top. The color illustration at the beginning of the post seems to show a table with a twisted top; but we would normally assume that this was just the artist’s lack of skill with perspective. Perhaps the drawing is accurate and these tables just warp like crazy, especially if made from partially dried wood.

  11. waltamb says:

    Great info Chris,
    Wonder if those without the nails might have use wood pins in at a slight angle to buils such tables and benches?
    Keep this coming and can’t wait for more content like this in Print and video.

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