When I consider how two pieces of wood should be joined together, I look at it like a marriage. For better or worse, in sunshine or rain, these two pieces of wood have to stand side by side. The trick is that wood, like people, is bound to change over time. It moves, expanding and contracting depending on the board’s temperament, the weather, and the amount of moisture in the air. Before I commit one piece of wood to another (and effectively pronounce them partners for life) I take time to consider all possible movement, and make adjustments to the design as necessary. The wood will then have a stable foundation on which to build its relationship, and you will have a piece of furniture that endures.
What follows is a primer of my favorite joints requiring hand tools. I’ve also thrown in a few machined joints. Joinery done using machined templates is how I stay competitive in the marketplace. Hand joinery is a very time consuming process that does yield the most structurally sound and (in my opinion) aesthetically beautiful results.
PHOTO #1: Japanese puzzle joint pegged with wenge wood. The same joint is repeated on the north, south, east, and west ends of the outer circle. The circle was built as the centerpiece for a custom headboard.
PHOTO #2: Double-wedged thru-tennons reinforced with wedge-wood splines. Used on the top beam of the same headboard.
PHOTO #3: Box Joint on square valet box (machined joinery).
PHOTO #5: Lap joints pegged with wooden dowels on a mirror in sugar maple.
PHOTO #6: Mortise and tennon joinery on the stand for a jewelry armoire. (Hand dovetails also visible on the casework.)
PHOTO #7: Single thru-tennon joinery on wooden-hinged jewelry chest built from mahagony and flame birch.