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Question about history of dowel joinery use.

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  • Gunther von Sachsenhausen
    Ok, so I searched back through the earlier posts, and it looks like this is a new-ish topic. Has the use of dowels in joinery been documented in the medieval
    Message 1 of 18 , May 29, 2007
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      Ok, so I searched back through the earlier posts, and it looks like
      this is a new-ish topic. Has the use of dowels in joinery been
      documented in the medieval era? Is this the right forum for this
      question?

      Yours in Service,
      Lord Gunther von Sachsenhausen
      SCA Member number 98792
    • C N Schwartz
      Yes, this is the right forum for that question. Again, that answer depends on what kind of dowel joinery you are referring to. Trenails predate period.
      Message 2 of 18 , May 29, 2007
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        Yes, this is the right forum for that question.
         
        Again, that answer  depends on what kind of dowel joinery you are referring to. 
         
        Trenails predate period.  Ancient Egyptians were using dowels on sarcophagi.  Some Viking chests were 'nailed' together with wooden pins.  And trenails are used in-period, as evidenced by ship building: Viking ships being a nice surviving artifact.  Trenails are used extensively in house carpentry throughout.  Late period barrel heads had dowelled edge joints and I am pretty sure that extended back aways, too.  Drawbored mortise and tenon joints were used in period too. 
         
        Were dowel joints used in period in ways similar to the way 21st Century woodworker that don't have a biscuit jointer use dowels?   No.
         
           
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
        -----Original Message-----
        From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Gunther von Sachsenhausen
        Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
        To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Question about history of dowel joinery use.

        Ok, so I searched back through the earlier posts, and it looks like
        this is a new-ish topic. Has the use of dowels in joinery been
        documented in the medieval era? Is this the right forum for this
        question?

        Yours in Service,
        Lord Gunther von Sachsenhausen
        SCA Member number 98792

      • Brian Wagner
        I have seen dowelled/pegged joinery in several Viking chests, including the Mastermyr tool chest and chests from the Oseburg ship burial. Þegn Hroþgar
        Message 3 of 18 , May 29, 2007
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          I have seen dowelled/pegged joinery in several Viking chests, including the
          Mastermyr tool chest and chests from the Oseburg ship burial.

          Þegn Hroþgar Fiscabana
          (Thegn Hrothgar)
          Gleann Abhann
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "Gunther von Sachsenhausen" <gunther_von_sachsenhausen@...>
          To: <medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 2:49 PM
          Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Question about history of dowel joinery use.


          > Ok, so I searched back through the earlier posts, and it looks like
          > this is a new-ish topic. Has the use of dowels in joinery been
          > documented in the medieval era? Is this the right forum for this
          > question?
          >
          > Yours in Service,
          > Lord Gunther von Sachsenhausen
          > SCA Member number 98792
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
        • James W. Pratt, Jr.
          Yes this is the correct forum for wood questions. I have personally seen dowels in Egption(sp) used in joinery they were cross corner in a mummy case( A
          Message 4 of 18 , May 29, 2007
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            Yes this is the correct forum for wood questions.  I have personally seen dowels in Egption(sp) used in joinery they were cross corner in a mummy case( A southern university museum.
             
            James Cunningham
             
            James Cunningham
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 5:49 PM
            Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Question about history of dowel joinery use.

            Ok, so I searched back through the earlier posts, and it looks like
            this is a new-ish topic. Has the use of dowels in joinery been
            documented in the medieval era? Is this the right forum for this
            question?

            Yours in Service,
            Lord Gunther von Sachsenhausen
            SCA Member number 98792

          • Gunther von Sachsenhausen
            Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had no idea trenails (dowels) went that far back. So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they
            Message 5 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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              Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had no idea trenails
              (dowels) went that far back.
              So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they had, they
              could use trenails to join wood at corners and join planks face-to-
              face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an accurate statement?

              With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere one might use a
              biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.
            • WR
              Heck, who needs a lathe? A sufficiently sharp blade and a little bit of time yields an eye-ball close enough dowel, regardless of the size or roundness (or
              Message 6 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                Heck, who needs a lathe? A sufficiently sharp blade and a little bit of
                time yields an "eye-ball close enough" dowel, regardless of the size or
                roundness (or lack of) of the hole.

                Yes, it's a bit more time-consuming - but isn't that what apprentices
                were for? :-)

                Gunther von Sachsenhausen wrote:
                > Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had no idea trenails
                > (dowels) went that far back.
                > So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they had, they
                > could use trenails to join wood at corners and join planks face-to-
                > face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an accurate statement?
                >
                > With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere one might use a
                > biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.
                >
                >
                >
              • kjworz@comcast.net
                The Egytian Mummy Boxes I saw in a museum all had 45 degree miter joints on the broad board ends, actually. Butted up to each other that way. The wooden
                Message 7 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                  The Egytian 'Mummy Boxes' I saw in a museum all had 45 degree miter joints on the broad board ends, actually. Butted up to each other that way. The wooden dowel 'nails' that then held the boards together were then drilled in at a 45 to the face of the board and the ends were trimmed off. These dowel were many (every 2 inches or so) and as big around as my thumb. The joint looks exceedingly weak to my eyes until I remember that the box doesn't get much use. Make the box, paint the box, shove a dead guy in -- all wrapped up in linen, carry the box to a tomb, then set it down in the tomb. Not much stress is put on the joint after that last part.

                  This box is the decorated wooden inner casket and the burial place of lesser Egyptian folk. The Pharoah got much nicer stone digs on the outer box.

                  Sure the joint LOOKS primitive, but I am trying to think how I'd go about making it with bronze age tools and make it look as good as the Egyptian craftsman did without blowing out the end of the piece with a split drilling of pounding the dowel home. I am at a bit of a loss.

                  --
                  -Chris Schwartz
                  Silver Spring, MD

                  -------------- Original message ----------------------
                  From: "Gunther von Sachsenhausen" <gunther_von_sachsenhausen@...>
                  > Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had no idea trenails
                  > (dowels) went that far back.
                  > So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they had, they
                  > could use trenails to join wood at corners and join planks face-to-
                  > face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an accurate statement?
                  >
                  > With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere one might use a
                  > biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                • kjworz@comcast.net
                  I d never make a dowel on a lathe. Too time consuming. Unless the dowel was really a round tenon end on a turned spindle part. A drawknife or just a
                  Message 8 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                    I'd never make a dowel on a lathe. Too time consuming. Unless the 'dowel' was really a round tenon end on a turned spindle part. A drawknife or just a carving knife that sorta rounds out a riven piece of stuff is more than enough sophistication for a drawbore dowel or a dowel for a barrel head edge joinery. If I was REALLY trying to be fancy I might use a metal sizing plate like this:
                    http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?grp=1239



                    --
                    -Chris Schwartz
                    Silver Spring, MD



                    -------------- Original message ----------------------
                    From: WR <wolfeyes@...>
                    > Heck, who needs a lathe? A sufficiently sharp blade and a little bit of
                    > time yields an "eye-ball close enough" dowel, regardless of the size or
                    > roundness (or lack of) of the hole.
                    >
                    > Yes, it's a bit more time-consuming - but isn't that what apprentices
                    > were for? :-)
                    >
                    > Gunther von Sachsenhausen wrote:
                    > > Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had no idea trenails
                    > > (dowels) went that far back.
                    > > So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they had, they
                    > > could use trenails to join wood at corners and join planks face-to-
                    > > face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an accurate statement?
                    > >
                    > > With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere one might use a
                    > > biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                  • Karl Christoffers
                    And from the briney deep ... the greeks joined the planks of their ships edge-to-edge with floating tenons. Just what you need, more options. -Malcolm ...
                    Message 9 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                      And from the briney deep ...

                      the greeks joined the planks of their ships
                      edge-to-edge with floating tenons. Just what you need,
                      more options.

                      -Malcolm

                      --- Gunther von Sachsenhausen
                      <gunther_von_sachsenhausen@...> wrote:

                      > Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had
                      > no idea trenails
                      > (dowels) went that far back.
                      > So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe
                      > technology they had, they
                      > could use trenails to join wood at corners and join
                      > planks face-to-
                      > face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an
                      > accurate statement?
                      >
                      > With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere
                      > one might use a
                      > biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.
                      >
                      >
                      >




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                    • JBRMM266@aol.com
                      Chris Schwartz wrote: I find that expression crass and disrespectful of the dead. Would it have been
                      Message 10 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                        Chris Schwartz wrote:




                        I find that expression crass and disrespectful of the dead. Would it have been any harder to type something like "put the mummy in" ?


                        Donal Mac Ruiseart
                        mka Jeb Raitt

                        AOL now offers free email to everyone. Find out more about what's free from AOL at AOL.com.
                      • JBRMM266@aol.com
                        Not sure why the citation disappeared, but here it is: Chris Schwartz wrote: Make the box, paint the box, shove a dead guy in -- I find that expression
                        Message 11 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                          Not sure why the citation disappeared, but here it is:

                           
                          Chris Schwartz wrote:

                          "Make the box, paint the box, shove a dead guy in -- "


                          I find that expression crass and disrespectful of the dead. Would it have been any harder to type something like "put the mummy in" ?


                          Donal Mac Ruiseart
                          mka Jeb Raitt

                        • Mark Schuldenfrei
                          If we must police each others language, can we at least have the courtesy to do so privately and off list? One can be bothered by language choices, without
                          Message 12 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                            If we must police each others language, can we at least
                            have the courtesy to do so privately and off list?

                            One can be bothered by language choices, without being
                            "offended". One can be "offended" without wanting to
                            control what other people say. One can attempt to control
                            what other people say, without boring other folks.

                            YES: I am being a bore. :-)

                            Tibor

                            JBRMM266@... wrote:
                            >
                            >
                            > Not sure why the citation disappeared, but here it is:
                            >
                            >
                            > Chris Schwartz wrote:
                            >
                            > "Make the box, paint the box, shove a dead guy in -- "
                            >
                            >
                            > I find that expression crass and disrespectful of the dead. Would it
                            > have been any harder to type something like "put the mummy in" ?
                            >
                            >
                            > Donal Mac Ruiseart
                            > mka Jeb Raitt
                            > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                            >
                          • AlbionWood
                            ... Not necessarily. I ve seen a German chest, in the Cologne Museum of Applied Arts, that had a lid made of two boards edge-joined, and at one end where it
                            Message 13 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                              > So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they had, they
                              > could use trenails to join wood at corners and join planks face-to-
                              > face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an accurate statement?
                              >

                              Not necessarily. I've seen a German chest, in the Cologne Museum of
                              Applied Arts, that had a lid made of two boards edge-joined, and at one
                              end where it was badly worn, it looked like there was a dowel across the
                              joint. Of course it's difficult to be sure when that might have been
                              put in - maybe not original. The lid has been repaired at least once,
                              with hand-forged iron nails in addition to the (probably original)
                              treenails. Unfortunately the photo I took is crap, too blurry to see
                              anything clearly. The chest is Inv. No. A792, "Frontstollentruhe mit
                              MaBwerk, Westfalen (Osnabruck?), um 1400."

                              That's the only example I can recall of a medieval piece that appeared
                              to have been edge-joined with dowels.

                              > With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere one might use a
                              > biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.
                              >

                              I doubt that very much. The evidence I've seen in various magazines
                              suggests otherwise.

                              Cheers,
                              Colin
                            • Lisa Wiser
                              No, you were not being a bore (or a boor
                              Message 14 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                                No, you were not being a bore (or a boor <snicker).

                                Another was.

                                Lia

                                Mark Schuldenfrei wrote:
                                > If we must police each others language, can we at least
                                > have the courtesy to do so privately and off list?
                                >
                                > One can be bothered by language choices, without being
                                > "offended". One can be "offended" without wanting to
                                > control what other people say. One can attempt to control
                                > what other people say, without boring other folks.
                                >
                                > YES: I am being a bore. :-)
                                >
                                > Tibor
                                >
                              • James W. Pratt, Jr.
                                Be careful with the lathe tech stuff. Norse trenails were most likely carved because they were not really dowels but nails with a head. After they were driven
                                Message 15 of 18 , May 30, 2007
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                                  Be careful with the lathe tech stuff. Norse trenails were most likely carved because they were not really dowels but nails with a head.  After they were driven into the board then they could be wedged or even fox wedged(I do not have doc. for fox wedges)
                                   
                                  James Cunningham
                                  ----- Original Message -----
                                  Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 3:17 PM
                                  Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Re: Question about history of dowel joinery use.

                                  Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had no idea trenails
                                  (dowels) went that far back.
                                  So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they had, they
                                  could use trenails to join wood at corners and join planks face-to-
                                  face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an accurate statement?

                                  With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere one might use a
                                  biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.

                                • Rebekah d'Avignon
                                  I used to think that as well, and in some cases it s true. But there are several things to consider. Biscuits allow for seasonal wood expansion, dowels don t
                                  Message 16 of 18 , May 31, 2007
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                                    I used to think that as well, and in some cases it's true. But there are several things to consider.
                                       Biscuits allow for seasonal wood expansion, dowels don't
                                       With modern wood glues a glued joint is, in most cases, strong enough (this comes from St Norm Abrams and St Roy Underhill)
                                       Biscuits are used more for ease of alignment in edge-to-edge jointing and add *a little strength* to joints that may bear weight (chair seats and backs that don't have breadboard edges which are really superior)
                                       A number of anitique chairs have dowels joining the seatframe to the rear legs, but there are other joints with superior holding power (with or without glue) such as drawn mortise/tenon (called pegged m/t) and both kinds of blind dovetail joints (the sliding dovetail and the one that is permanent). The permanent dovetail is most found in Shaker-style furniture....which is one reason that it held so well and can be so hard to repair.
                                     
                                    Of course hand-cut mortises are a pain to cut without a mortiser and have fallen out of favor because of the cost of man-hours of labor in a mass-production world. A new chair today probably won't last long enough to pass down to grandchildren, but a hand-made child's rocker made with "proper" joints (drawn m/t and dovetails) can be passed to great-grandchildren. In fact there are rush-seated chairs (rushes are twisted cattail leaves) from the 19th century that are still in use - not in museums, in use - today.

                                    Gunther von Sachsenhausen <gunther_von_sachsenhausen@...> wrote:
                                    Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had no idea trenails
                                    (dowels) went that far back.
                                    So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they had, they could use trenails to join wood at corners and join planks face-to-face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an accurate statement?

                                    With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere one might use a biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.
                                    .




                                    When you get down to it about all a man has to call his own is his values. When you sell those out, you don't have anything left.
                                     
                                    Col Sherman Potter
                                    4077 MASH


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                                  • Gunther von Sachsenhausen
                                    Excellent point Rebekah, I hadn t considered seasonal expansion. I have to remember that wood is dynamic. Being a big fan of Arts & Crafts, I m sold on mortise
                                    Message 17 of 18 , May 31, 2007
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                                      Excellent point Rebekah, I hadn't considered seasonal expansion. I
                                      have to remember that wood is dynamic. Being a big fan of Arts &
                                      Crafts, I'm sold on mortise & tenon. I think I'll give biscuits
                                      another look. Heck if Norm Abrams uses them, they can't be all bad.
                                      Thanks for the perspective.

                                      --- In medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com, Rebekah d'Avignon
                                      <rebekahdavignon@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > I used to think that as well, and in some cases it's true. But
                                      there are several things to consider.
                                      > Biscuits allow for seasonal wood expansion, dowels don't
                                      > With modern wood glues a glued joint is, in most cases, strong
                                      enough (this comes from St Norm Abrams and St Roy Underhill)
                                      > Biscuits are used more for ease of alignment in edge-to-edge
                                      jointing and add *a little strength* to joints that may bear weight
                                      (chair seats and backs that don't have breadboard edges which are
                                      really superior)
                                      > A number of anitique chairs have dowels joining the seatframe
                                      to the rear legs, but there are other joints with superior holding
                                      power (with or without glue) such as drawn mortise/tenon (called
                                      pegged m/t) and both kinds of blind dovetail joints (the sliding
                                      dovetail and the one that is permanent). The permanent dovetail is
                                      most found in Shaker-style furniture....which is one reason that it
                                      held so well and can be so hard to repair.
                                      >
                                      > Of course hand-cut mortises are a pain to cut without a mortiser
                                      and have fallen out of favor because of the cost of man-hours of
                                      labor in a mass-production world. A new chair today probably won't
                                      last long enough to pass down to grandchildren, but a hand-made
                                      child's rocker made with "proper" joints (drawn m/t and dovetails)
                                      can be passed to great-grandchildren. In fact there are rush-seated
                                      chairs (rushes are twisted cattail leaves) from the 19th century that
                                      are still in use - not in museums, in use - today.
                                      >
                                      > Gunther von Sachsenhausen <gunther_von_sachsenhausen@...> wrote:
                                      > Thanks for the excellent answers and examples. I had no
                                      idea trenails
                                      > (dowels) went that far back.
                                      > So it sounds like, with the drill and lathe technology they had,
                                      they could use trenails to join wood at corners and join planks face-
                                      to-face, but not edge-to-edge. Would that be an accurate statement?
                                      >
                                      > With that in mind, I will be using dowels anywhere one might use a
                                      biscuit, just because I think dowels are stronger.
                                      >
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                                    • Rebekah d'Avignon
                                      One thing that some woodworkers may not understand (hey, we re ALL still learning) is the term and use of breadboard ends . As usual they are easier to show
                                      Message 18 of 18 , Jun 1, 2007
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                                        One thing that some woodworkers may not understand (hey, we're ALL still learning) is the term and use of "breadboard ends". As usual they are easier to show than explain, but let me try......
                                         
                                        To join two boards (say 1 x 6s) joined side-by-side (grain parallel instead of in line) dovetail the ends so that you have one pin running the width of each end - that is, stand the boards on end and run your router so that the base rests *on* the endgrain, the bit cuts across the grain. Then take another board, probably a 1 x 2 and rout the tail in the center the entire length of the board. This pair makes a sliding dovetail so that the grain of the 1 x 2 runs perpendicular to that of the 1 x 6s at each end (two 1 x 2s). The dovetails should be tight enough to require LIGHT tapping with a mallet (so they don't fall off), but not so tight as to require pounding. During seasonal expansion the 1 x 6s can expand because the sliding dovetail doesn't force them to a fixed width (like clamps used during gluing). They could also be cut so that the 1 x 2s fit across the underside face of the wider boards (pins cut the length of the 1 x 2s and tails cut across the boards) This type of joint is useful any time you don't want to use fasteners such as bookcases, tables, work benches, chair seats, or entertainment centers. It's a very strong joint and, if cut right, HAS to be 90 degs. Each time they are cut, they will take some tweaking to get them "just right". In the event that you are building a trestle table it is a good method for attaching the trestles to the table top, though I don't recommend repeatedly taking them apart as friction will eventually destroy the joint.
                                         
                                        Then there are "housed sliding dovetails" which is an even stronger joint (and impressive looking) in the event that you are supporting a heavy television or other weight.
                                         
                                        I hope that this was clear. If anyone has any confusion, please ask.
                                         


                                        Gunther von Sachsenhausen <gunther_von_sachsenhausen@...> wrote:
                                        Excellent point Rebekah, I hadn't considered seasonal expansion. I
                                        have to remember that wood is dynamic. Being a big fan of Arts &
                                        Crafts, I'm sold on mortise & tenon. I think I'll give biscuits
                                        another look. Heck if Norm Abrams uses them, they can't be all bad.
                                        Thanks for the perspective.
                                        .




                                        When you get down to it about all a man has to call his own is his values. When you sell those out, you don't have anything left.
                                         
                                        Col Sherman Potter
                                        4077 MASH


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