by Furniture Master Brad Wolcott
Sometimes the most challenging aspects of a piece lie below the surface.
For the table “Luna,” which I created for the Currier Museum’s recent ‘Heart of the Arts’ event, the clean lines and crisp intersection of the legs and apron hide a complex joint with incredible strength. Combining a double miter with a tenon and a long dovetail, the joint allowed me to maintain the continuity of the curly maple around the top edge of the apron and create a visually interesting geometry at each corner. The strength of the joint comes from the combination of the tenon and the sliding dovetail. The long grain face of the tenon provides a good glue surface and prevents the leg from twisting, while the two dovetails on each leg lock the miters and tenons in place. Gravity works to hold the joint together and when carefully executed, the joint is rigid enough to function without glue. An easier and faster way to achieve the same appearance would be to use slip tenons to hold the the miters together, but this approach has little mechanical strength and less glue surface to hold it together.
I am looking forward to using this technique on future pieces and I would like to build a similar table to this one in figured Claro Walnut with a hand-hewn, natural cleft slate top if the opportunity arises.
Applying pressure to a double-mitered joint during glue-up can be a tricky process.
It’s important to use clamps during the assembly process to ensure that all of the joints seat properly, but for this table there were no parallel surfaces available to apply clamping pressure perpendicular to the faces of the joints. In order to create those parallel clamping surfaces I glued small, angled MDF blocks to the legs and apron pieces using warm hide glue. Once the assembly is complete, I typically chisel off the majority of the MDF blocks and then use a hand plane to remove the remaining MDF and glue from the surface of each piece. On previous projects I have used yellow glue to affix these pieces, but yellow glue has a tendency to tear out curly maple if you try to remove it too aggressively. Hide glue has the advantage of being dissolvable in warm water so it is easy to remove from the surface of the piece before doing the final cleanup with a hand plane. This also reduces the wear you put on a sharp blade and saves time at the sharpening bench.
We are grateful to Brad Wolcott for sharing his techniques and apologize to our blog readers for the technical difficulties!