Good chairs stay together forever if the chair maker understands what wood does.
They know it will move, and use this to their advantage.
Bone dry legs going into a slightly wetter seat.
The seat drys over time, the legs take on a tad of moisture and everything stays tight.
A good furniture maker knows that he was born cock-eyed for a reason.
Trust out of square.
The key to building swiftly by hand, is to not work like a machinist.
Matching lengths and perfectly square are all essential when you’re using stop blocks and all that.
But this approach by hand always leaves you feeling like you’re chasing your tail.
And it take ages.
Gaps in your joints.
It sounds like an excuse from a shoddy workman.
But there’s a double benefit here.
We’re gonna need a scenario.
Let’s have a classic table and focus a bit on the joinery.
You’ve got four legs and four aprons.
They’re joined together with mortice and tenons.
When we prep these parts by hand, aiming perfectly square is a time consumer.
And getting nice tight shoulders all the way around on every joint is also a time consumer.
That’s what a machinist would need to do.
But we don’t have to.
Instead, deliberately plane your legs wrong.
Don’t aim at 90 degrees, but go a bit less.
Don’t be precise about how much less.
That’s the whole point.
Just get them as close as you can to 90 without worrying too much, because aiming for out of square is wonderfully tolerant.
Just be sure to check from your reference faces each time (they should be the two outside faces).
So that’s made that part a doddle.
(We’re talking about being out of square here, however it is still important to remove twist from your reference faces. Try this post if you struggle with twist when planing wood by hand.)
Now for the tenons.
We’re aiming at gappy joints.
Scribe your shoulder all the way around.
On the show face cut to the waste side of the line as you would normally.
But on the back of the apron cut to the other side. The ‘good’ side.
When the joint goes together the face will be tight, but the back will have a small gap.
Fettling the face of the joint is now dead easy.
We can get it perfect without having to mess about going around the other side and all that.
Working in this manner gives us two benefits.
The first benefit is clearly tremendous speed.
But there’s a second.
When we peg the whole thing together, all the joints will pull less than 90 degrees.
Basically each joint will want to twist.
This is because the tenon will be able to slip in just a tad more on the back of the joint due to that gap.
And because the faces of the legs are inward of 90 degrees.
Once the whole lot’s together, the joints will work against, and sort of counter act each other, so that the table will still sit square.
But that twist creates tension.
The benefit here is a table that will be far, far more rack resistant, particularly over time when the timber does all of it’s moving.
It’ll also be a lot more rigid over all.
So the right side of wrong gives us a load of speed, and makes a stronger table.
Aiming at perfection is intimidating.
Particularly when you’re starting out.
In our Hall Table Video build, all of the time-saving approaches have been exaggerated to help you get a good grasp.
You can find details of the build here.