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The furniture we make is joined; it is put together using integral joinery: dovetails and mortise and tenons. The mortise and tenon joinery is not as easy or as inexpensive as dowels, biscuits, or splines. It requires careful planning and execution. The mortise and tenon joint is found in timber-frame buildings and in furniture of all ages. It is the hallmark of the finest furniture.

In the past, organized apprentice systems offered training in many specific skills. There were carvers, finishers, joiners, etc. Joiners specialized in fashioning the joints needed in furniture construction. Traditionally, joints were cut with saws, hand planes, and chisels. Today we use machines designed to cut these joints. The machines are able to hold tolerances of .002 of an inch, about the thickness of a hair. This is important since the joints are glued. Modern wood glues work best with glue-line thicknesses of no more than .002". This allows wood fibers within a joint to be in direct contact and to form a strong bond.
A number of years ago, we visited many shops that had an interest in participating in a large project we were doing. One of the things we were looking for was the willingness, and ability, to cut proper mortise and tenon joints. One shop that wanted the job didn’t have the capability to cut them. The owner attempted to talk us out of using them; he explained how easy, cost-effective, and strong dowels were. As we were walking around his plant, he had occasion to move a chair from one spot to another. The chair was in rough shape and came apart in his hands. One part of it fell on his foot. As he danced around in agony, we couldn’t help noticing the dowels in the failed joints. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.

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1611 Harbor Rd.
Shelburne, Vermont 05482
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