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Re: [MedievalSawdust] Re: period glue documentation

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  • Jim Hart
    During the US colonial period cabinet shops ( cabinetmakers ) made fine furniture and carpenters made utilitarian furniture. And there is some logic to that. A
    Message 1 of 32 , Jul 1, 2011
      During the US colonial period cabinet shops ( cabinetmakers ) made fine furniture and 
      carpenters made utilitarian furniture. And there is some logic to that. A table for a wealthy
      merchant's dining hall would be different from a table in that same  household's kitchen. 
      It is reasonable to think that those tables would not be made by the same craftsman. A skilled 
      craftsman would be best utilized making the highest grade product he can and even the
      apprentices of those craftsman would be spending their time at tasks they had the skills for
      that apply to the 'fancy' table or learning the skills required for that level of work.

      I've never looked into whether that distinction holds true for the SCA's medieval period.....
      Or what the differences were and what trade names were used to specify EXACTLY 
      what the craftsman did. 

      We need to remember to be careful when applying our terms to crafts of other time periods.

      The term 'jointer' as a name for a trade ( or tradesman ) has pretty much vanished and now is used as a
      name for a tool ( at least in respect to woodworking ) 

      On Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 5:57 PM, Vels inn Viggladi <velsthe1@...> wrote:

      > I submit this is evidence, albeit tenuous, that glue was a relatively
      > new technology for these trades; else the question likely would have
      > been settled before then. To me this is evidence that glue probably
      > wasn't much used by joiners before the 16th c - a conclusion I already
      > came to from examining the way furniture was made. Dovetail joinery
      > (which relies on glue) doesn't become widespread before the mid- or
      > late- 15th century; before that, almost everything is done with pegged
      > M&T joints.
      > Cheers,
      > Tim

      I think we may come from significantly different schools of Dovetail Joinery, as I've never heard that a dovetail joint requires glue. Adhesives can certainly help any joint, but the dovetail is one that doesn't require it (as opposed to a lap joint).

      Cennini (14th Century) details casein glues used by woodworkers, "Il Libro dell'Arte" is contemporary with the first recorded usages of the terms "Carpenter" and "Joiner". In the entry, Cennini describes this as a generality without specifying if any particular branch or another uses cheese glue.
      England and France tended to be a half to a full century behind Central and Eastern Europe in joinery techniques through most of the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Meanwhile there are extant pieces from Constantinople that feature techniques which are not seen in use in Western-most Europe for ~500 years.

      One really important thing to consider, and I doubt there have been many if any studies of this done, is how long do natural glues survive before entropy catches up with the natural biodegradability?

      If an adhesive is expected to remain intact for a human lifetime, then it makes a pretty good reinforcement for any joint. If a glue breaks down after a few decades or so, how much would be left beyond minute evidence after a few centuries?


      Jim Hart
        Conal OhAirt

      Aude Aliquid Digmun - dare something worthy
    • D. Young
      Well said Tim. There was actually a really good discussion on Peter Follansbees blog about green wood and the implication behind it. From my own experience
      Message 32 of 32 , Jul 13, 2011
        Well said Tim.

        There was actually a really good discussion on Peter Follansbees blog about green wood and the implication behind it.    From my own experience of directly felled, split or sawn and worked oak tree to lumber, I can say that the term green wood is often misunderstood to literally mean that  the piece of furniture was made within days  of the trees felling.    Clearly this is not the case as it really takes at least 3-4 weeks to dry the outer surface of the lumber to get a good planing job done on it, and often carve it.    I think joined furniture takes off in large measure by the 15th century because of the increasing lack of oak...joined work is often composed of smaller pieces.  But by the 17th century and importation of oaks from the Americas, joined work may have simply become fashion (by that period). 

        And with respect to glues, veneering and marquetry require seasoned wood.   Even if the outer layers are dry, the evaporation will erode the strength of most glues, loosening the applied layer.   

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        > To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        > From: albionwood@...
        > Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2011 13:42:03 -0700
        > Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Glues and veneers
        > Veneered furniture - including marquetry - appears in the late 15th and
        > sophisticated examples are known from the 16th century, especially in
        > Italy, but also north of the Alps in German and Dutch areas. Glue was
        > definitely in use there and then.
        > Is there evidence for green-wood joinery as a general practice in the
        > medieval period? My understanding is that it really took off in the
        > 17th and 18th centuries. Especially the methods that relied on
        > shrinkage to lock the joints together - I am not aware of any surviving
        > examples from before the 16th c. - if anyone has evidence for this, I'd
        > love to see it.
        > Most of the medieval joinery that I'm familiar with pretty much requires
        > seasoned wood. The joints will accommodate seasonal movement,
        > expansion/contraction, but do not appear designed to deal with
        > contraction only. Think for example of clamped-front chests, or boarded
        > stools, both of which involve cross-grain joinery; yes, the wooden pegs
        > will accommodate some movement, but these objects clearly were not made
        > from green wood.
        > Cheers,
        > Tim
        > On 7/1/2011 4:43 PM, D. Young wrote:
        > >
        > > Not long into the 18th century glues and veneers come into being so the
        > > joiner who RELIED on relatively green, moisture stable quartered lumber
        > > as a critical part of joinery to work properly (that eventual shrinkage
        > > was critical to lock up the joint) gave way to glues and such....that
        > > obviously work best with seasoned, stable wood.
        > >
        > > Ergo glue is not a part of most furniture until after the first quarter
        > > of 18th century. The devils in the details...literally.
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