Monday, October 17, 2011

Woodworks by John: Custom Work vs. Mass Production

     Now that my hiatus from the table project brought about by visiting family and doing the entertainment doors is over, I can get back to work on them.  I installed the doors this morning and; as suspected, it wasn't a quick process.  Between using some pretty old and dried out material to make them and then installing them in an opening that wasn't  100% square it took some time.  Add to that they were inset doors and you can understand why it was difficult.  But -- bottom line is that they were happy with the results and could see the efforts I went through to make things right.  Ended up using the cardboard off some of their writing pads to shim a filler piece!
     To attach the legs to the tables I'm using a through mortise and tenon, splined to add strength and a decorative element to the top as well.  Going through the process I couldn't help but contrast this to the quicker way of pocket screw joinery which might be used if these were mass-produced.  I thought it would be a good time to share the process with you, it may get complicated!  Let's start with this picture:

Splined Mortise & Tenon 
     What you see here is the table top frame with the leg inserted from the bottom side.  The two white pieces of wood are the splines that will wedge the tenon tightly into the mortise.  Before I got to this point it was necessary to first drill two holes near the base of the tenon and then saw a kerf to those holes.  I put an extra leg in the picture to illustrate that.  Here's what happens when the joint is assembled, the leg is inserted from the bottom with glue, when it comes through the mortise the wedges are inserted and hammered tight.  It's difficult to see, but the wedges are tapered towards the outside of the mortise and the mortise is slightly tapered as well.  As the wedge is hammered home, the hole drilled in the tenon will let the outside splay out tightly against the tapered mortise side.  It's important to put the tapered side of the wedge to the outside e of the joint.  Once the glue has dried the tenon will be cut off and planed flush.
     Time consuming --- yes, worth it --- yes again.  That's the beauty of working this way and personally I can't think of too many other ways I'd like to spend the day.  Sure, it gets a bit tedious at times like when I used a paring chisel to cut the taper on all 18 wedges:

Shaping Wedges
Next up will be the final shaping of the legs.  They will have a double bevel from the center and then be tapered from top to bottom to add a sense of lightness to them.  Like any design process, you're never quite sure how things will end up even after making drawings and several mockups.  I'll keep you posted!

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