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Dove Tail ponderance

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  • Ralph Lindberg
    We know that the basic dove-tail joint is old. I ve seen documentation pushing what (today) we call a sliding dove-tail back to the Roman era. But a question,
    Message 1 of 13 , May 31, 2005
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      We know that the basic dove-tail joint is old. I've seen
      documentation pushing what (today) we call a sliding dove-tail back to
      the Roman era.
      But a question, what is the earliest we can push the carcass/box/etc
      with corners joined in the "classic" dove-tail joint we know and love
      today?

      Ralg
      AnTir
    • Joseph Paul
      That is a good question and I don t have an answer for it. But I do have an idea on handling questions like this which will continue to come up in various
      Message 2 of 13 , May 31, 2005
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        That is a good question and I don't have an answer for it. But I do have an idea on handling questions like this which will continue to come up in various forms. Why don't we pool our resources/knowledge and address such questions in an opened ended fora or files section. For a particular joint we could have people weigh in with their evidence for that joint being used at such and such a time in such and such a place. As new info comes in the forum can be updated. Essentially it would give woodworkers a set of data points to consider when designing projects so that if they are concerned that they use the same joinery that was used by medieval woodworkers they will have someplace to start. It could also show some interesting holes in joinery technique. Are there cultures who did not use particular joins? Is there any technical difficulty to this?
        Jamie Blackrose
        -----Original Message-----
        From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Ralph Lindberg
        Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 10:45 AM
        To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Dove Tail ponderance

          We know that the basic dove-tail joint is old. I've seen
        documentation pushing what (today) we call a sliding dove-tail back to
        the Roman era.
          But a question, what is the earliest we can push the carcass/box/etc
        with corners joined in the "classic" dove-tail joint we know and love
        today?

        Ralg
        AnTir





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      • kjworz@comcast.net
        If you mean dovetails as in the thin-pin/thick-tail variety, I d say you are deep in the post columbian era. Maybe even 18th Century. I ve heard of no
        Message 3 of 13 , May 31, 2005
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          If you mean dovetails as in the thin-pin/thick-tail variety, I'd say you are deep in the post columbian era. Maybe even 18th Century. I've heard of no references of this refinement being earlier than this.

          Seen lots of references and pictures/examples of dovetails in late period, like early 16th century. The dovetail pins/tails look more directly proportioned in size, and the angle is sharper than we are used to, like 1:5 or 4 instead of 1:8ish. There is a Albrecht Durer pieces that shows this proportion beautifully.

          There is conjecture that Meditteranean cities never forgot the joint during the early period. It took til late period for Norther Europe to rediscover the joint that even the Egyptians used in the times of Pharoahs.

          I'd love to see evidence of the joint being made in Northern Europe anytime from the 9th to 14th Centuries. I know of no reliable source that says dovetails were know at these times in that region.

          --
          -Chris Schwartz
          Silver Spring, MD


          > We know that the basic dove-tail joint is old. I've seen
          > documentation pushing what (today) we call a sliding dove-tail back to
          > the Roman era.
          > But a question, what is the earliest we can push the carcass/box/etc
          > with corners joined in the "classic" dove-tail joint we know and love
          > today?
          >
          > Ralg
          > AnTir
          >
          >
          >
        • Tim Bray
          Ralg, ... More importantly to us, it is found in Scandinavian boxes of the Viking era as well. (Lots of things that are Roman are not Medieval, so documenting
          Message 4 of 13 , May 31, 2005
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            Ralg,

              We know that the basic dove-tail joint is old. I've seen
            documentation pushing what (today) we call a sliding dove-tail back to
            the Roman era.

            More importantly to us, it is found in Scandinavian boxes of the Viking era as well. (Lots of things that are Roman are not Medieval, so documenting something to the Roman era doesn't necessarily mean it's TALA for us.)

              But a question, what is the earliest we can push the carcass/box/etc
            with corners joined in the "classic" dove-tail joint we know and love
            today?

            Not an easy question to answer.  This comes up a lot and always sets off a discussion... For Northern Europe, there are some documentary references that seem to suggest dovetailed chests in the Early MA (an 8th c. chest, described in Eames), but no archaeological examples that I'm aware of before the 15th c.    Belgian altarpieces from the 1420s on were usually assembled with dovetailed carcases; I have a photo of the earliest one I saw, in Brussels. 

            People who know a lot more about Italy than I do have suggested that dovetailed construction never completely disappeared there.  But I have yet to see the evidence...

            So, it all comes down to time and location, dunnit?  For a guy with a Scandinavian name, I think the mid-15th c. is the earliest you could expect to see dovetailed carcases, and it's more likely to be a bit later.  By ca. 1500 they were fashionable (for chests and coffers) all over Europe.

            Cheers,
            Colin


            Albion Works
            Furniture and Accessories
            For the Medievalist!
          • Tim Bray
            I ve posted a photo of a dovetail carcase joint on a retable from the Meuse region (Liege or Tongeren), dated to 1435, currently in the Brussels Museum of Art
            Message 5 of 13 , May 31, 2005
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              I've posted a photo of a dovetail carcase joint on a retable from the Meuse region (Liege or Tongeren), dated to 1435, currently in the Brussels Museum of Art & History.  It's a little blurry, but the joint is clear.  Look in the Photos section, in the folder labeled Dovetails.

              After seeing this one, and with the ongoing discussion in mind, I kept a sharp eye out for these.  This particular joint has the tails showing on the vertical face, whereas most of the other retables I saw had the tails on top & bottom, which makes a lot more sense to me.  (The tails resist withdrawing, and sideways tension is more probable than vertical tension.)  These things were mass-produced in workshops in Brussels, Antwerp, and a few other places in the region.  Pretty nearly all of the ones I saw, where I could see the joints, were joined with dovetails.  Also the front face is mitered, with a true miter.  Interesting joint!

              There are a few retables from the end of the 14th century, but I haven't been able to see the corners to determine how they were joined.  I don't think they existed much earlier than the 1390s.  Maybe because that's when this kind of joinery developed?  Chicken-and-egg question...

              Cheers,
              Colin


              Albion Works
              Furniture and Accessories
              For the Medievalist!
            • Dan Baker
              Hmmm, are we including cases where there is a single dovetail in an otherwise butt jointed side? I have seen a few of those, I was thinking they were earlier
              Message 6 of 13 , May 31, 2005
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                Hmmm, are we including cases where there is a single dovetail in an
                otherwise butt jointed side? I have seen a few of those, I was
                thinking they were earlier then 1400s, I'll have to look.


                -Rhys

                On 5/31/05, Tim Bray <tbray@...> wrote:
                > I've posted a photo of a dovetail carcase joint on a retable from the Meuse
                > region (Liege or Tongeren), dated to 1435, currently in the Brussels Museum
                > of Art & History. It's a little blurry, but the joint is clear. Look in
                > the Photos section, in the folder labeled Dovetails.
                >
                > After seeing this one, and with the ongoing discussion in mind, I kept a
                > sharp eye out for these. This particular joint has the tails showing on the
                > vertical face, whereas most of the other retables I saw had the tails on top
                > & bottom, which makes a lot more sense to me. (The tails resist
                > withdrawing, and sideways tension is more probable than vertical tension.)
                > These things were mass-produced in workshops in Brussels, Antwerp, and a few
                > other places in the region. Pretty nearly all of the ones I saw, where I
                > could see the joints, were joined with dovetails. Also the front face is
                > mitered, with a true miter. Interesting joint!
                >
                > There are a few retables from the end of the 14th century, but I haven't
                > been able to see the corners to determine how they were joined. I don't
                > think they existed much earlier than the 1390s. Maybe because that's when
                > this kind of joinery developed? Chicken-and-egg question...
                >
                > Cheers,
                > Colin
                >
                >
                >
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              • Tim Bray
                ... You re right, there are a few examples of chests with a single dovetail at each side. They are kind of an odd creature, because the actual joinery is
                Message 7 of 13 , May 31, 2005
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                  Hmmm, are we including cases where there is a single dovetail in an
                  otherwise butt jointed side?  I have seen a few of those, I was
                  thinking they were earlier then 1400s, I'll have to look.

                  You're right, there are a few examples of chests with a single dovetail at each side.   They are kind of an odd creature, because the actual joinery is done with nails - it's not clear to me what the dovetail is doing.  When I first saw a drawing of this, I thought it was a fake, but have seen evidence of others, so I guess they were real. 

                  Johnston has line drawings of a really odd one, at Cound in Salop.  It has three dovetails at each end of the front panel, set into vertical stiles at each end - a cross-grain lap-dovetail joint!  It is held together with a whole bunch of big round-headed nails.  Very odd.

                  However, I do think this is a different thing than what Ralg was asking about, which was a dovetailed carcase construction.  Those are distinguished by multiple pins & tails, what we usually think of when we talk of dovetailed joinery.

                  Cheers,
                  Colin


                  Albion Works
                  Furniture and Accessories
                  For the Medievalist!
                • Joseph Hayes
                  ... Maybe the dovetail is to prevent racking? Ulrich __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Small Business - Try our new Resources site
                  Message 8 of 13 , May 31, 2005
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                    --- Tim Bray <tbray@...> wrote:
                    > You're right, there are a few examples of chests with a single
                    > dovetail at each side. They are kind of an odd creature, because
                    > the actual joinery is done with nails - it's not clear to me what the
                    > dovetail is doing.

                    Maybe the dovetail is to prevent racking?

                    Ulrich




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                  • maf@gleichen.ca
                    Maybe it s either just for decoration or it is used as an alignment mark? Cered ... From: Joseph Hayes To:
                    Message 9 of 13 , Jun 1, 2005
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                      Maybe it's either just for decoration or it is used as an alignment mark?

                      Cered


                      ----- Original Message -----
                      From: "Joseph Hayes" <von_landstuhl@...>
                      To: <medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 8:10 PM
                      Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Dove Tail ponderance


                      >
                      > --- Tim Bray <tbray@...> wrote:
                      >> You're right, there are a few examples of chests with a single
                      >> dovetail at each side. They are kind of an odd creature, because
                      >> the actual joinery is done with nails - it's not clear to me what the
                      >> dovetail is doing.
                      >
                      > Maybe the dovetail is to prevent racking?
                      >
                      > Ulrich
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
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                    • Dan Baker
                      The ones I remember all seemed to be very large, very thick chests. It seemed to me at the time that it might be for alignment, to hold everything in place
                      Message 10 of 13 , Jun 1, 2005
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                        The ones I remember all seemed to be very large, very thick chests.
                        It seemed to me at the time that it might be for alignment, to hold
                        everything in place while it was being nailed. At least as much that
                        as for any additional strength. If you are working with big awkward
                        pieces, something to hold it in dry fit would be very useful.

                        I don't think Bessy was making K clamps in the middle ages. ; )

                        -Rhys

                        On 5/31/05, Tim Bray <tbray@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > Hmmm, are we including cases where there is a single dovetail in an
                        > otherwise butt jointed side? I have seen a few of those, I was
                        > thinking they were earlier then 1400s, I'll have to look.
                        > You're right, there are a few examples of chests with a single dovetail at
                        > each side. They are kind of an odd creature, because the actual joinery is
                        > done with nails - it's not clear to me what the dovetail is doing. When I
                        > first saw a drawing of this, I thought it was a fake, but have seen evidence
                        > of others, so I guess they were real.
                        >
                      • Thomas Lee Case
                        ... I m interested in more information on this style of chest. At one time I had photo copies of pictures of chests which were apparently framed with half
                        Message 11 of 13 , Jun 5, 2005
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                          On Wednesday 01 June 2005 01:35 pm, Dan Baker wrote:
                          > The ones I remember all seemed to be very large, very thick chests.
                          > It seemed to me at the time that it might be for alignment, to hold
                          > everything in place while it was being nailed. At least as much that
                          > as for any additional strength. If you are working with big awkward
                          > pieces, something to hold it in dry fit would be very useful.
                          >
                          > I don't think Bessy was making K clamps in the middle ages. ; )
                          >
                          > -Rhys
                          >
                          > On 5/31/05, Tim Bray <tbray@...> wrote:
                          > > Hmmm, are we including cases where there is a single dovetail in an
                          > > otherwise butt jointed side? I have seen a few of those, I was
                          > > thinking they were earlier then 1400s, I'll have to look.
                          > > You're right, there are a few examples of chests with a single dovetail
                          > > at each side. They are kind of an odd creature, because the actual
                          > > joinery is done with nails - it's not clear to me what the dovetail is
                          > > doing. When I first saw a drawing of this, I thought it was a fake, but
                          > > have seen evidence of others, so I guess they were real.


                          I'm interested in more information on this style of chest.
                          At one time I had photo copies of pictures of chests which were apparently
                          framed with half lapped dove tail joints ( in the manner of the half lapped
                          dovetail joints used in timber framed building construction), instead of
                          mortise and tenon construction. It would seem that I've lost that information
                          over the years.
                          I would like to locate information about their construction, and provenance.

                          On a related note, this site
                          http://www.amgron.clara.net/dovetails/dvtailtesting/dvtailtestindex.htm
                          describes testing that indicates that when glue is not used, that the strength
                          of a dovetail joint increases as the angle of the dovetails increases, up to
                          about 35 degrees.


                          Thomas Lee Case
                        • Tim Bray
                          ... One or two are shown or described in: Church Chests of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries in England, by Philip Mainwaring Johnston, F.R.I.B.A. No ISBN.
                          Message 12 of 13 , Jun 5, 2005
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                            I'm interested in more information on this style of chest.
                            At one time I had photo copies of pictures of chests which were apparently
                            framed with half lapped dove tail joints ( in the manner of the half lapped
                            dovetail joints used in timber framed building construction), instead of
                            mortise and tenon construction. It would seem that I've lost that information
                            over the years.
                            I would like to locate information about their construction, and provenance.

                            One or two are shown or described in:
                            Church Chests of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries in England, by Philip Mainwaring Johnston, F.R.I.B.A.
                            No ISBN.  Reprint of an article from Archaeological Journal, v. 64, no. 4, 1907.
                            Available from Caber Press, 7459 N. Fenwick, Portland OR 97217.
                            http://home.teleport.com/~tcl/caber.htm
                            Master Magnus got Jack to reprint this, and it is the best $12.95 (plus shipping) you will ever spend.


                            On a related note, this site
                             http://www.amgron.clara.net/dovetails/dvtailtesting/dvtailtestindex.htm
                            describes testing that indicates that when glue is not used, that the strength
                            of a dovetail joint increases as the angle of the dovetails increases, up to
                            about 35 degrees.

                            I think we talked about that before... very interesting findings, especially the part about the joint being _stronger_ without glue!

                            My conclusion, IIRC, was that this probably went a long way toward explaining the preference for wide dovetail angles in the late MA, because I don't think they relied much on glue.

                            Cheers,
                            Colin


                            Albion Works
                            Furniture and Accessories
                            For the Medievalist!
                          • Tim Bray
                            By the way - those 1430s dovetailed carcases I was talking about, on the Belgian retables? They have face-miters, something like the ones shown here:
                            Message 13 of 13 , Jun 5, 2005
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                              By the way - those 1430s dovetailed carcases I was talking about, on the Belgian retables?  They have face-miters, something like the ones shown here:
                              http://www.amgron.clara.net/dovetails/boxdovetails/boxdovetailindex.htm
                              But only on the front edge.

                              Cheers,
                              Colin


                              Albion Works
                              Furniture and Accessories
                              For the Medievalist!
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