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Re: [medievalsawdust] Re: Dovetails

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  • Tom Rettie
    A few points to throw into the conversation, in no particular order: -- The dispersion of information/techniques isn t just a matter of contact across regions.
    Message 1 of 46 , Sep 7, 2003
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      A few points to throw into the conversation, in no particular order:

      -- The dispersion of information/techniques isn't just a matter of contact
      across regions. Production techniques are trade secrets, and even within a
      guild, your technique may be the only competitive edge you have over other
      members of your own trade. Not much inspiration to share more than you have
      to.

      -- In some periods/regions, production techniques were highly regulated. My
      own area of study is English Tudor, and for members of the livery companies
      of Tudor London, the use of unapproved tools or techniques brought a hefty
      fine; repeat offenders might be expelled from their company. "Searchers"
      were empowered by the company to inspect members and levy fines as needed.
      If you are using an unapproved technique, you have a good reason to hide it.

      -- Simply teaching a skill to an unapproved person might be a fineable
      offense. Turners who worked for/taught joiners outside the company were
      fined 10s. a week.

      -- While there was no standardization across large regions, in some
      instances there was a lot of standardization in a given locality. There
      doesn't seem to have been much encouragement (and even active
      discouragement) for deviation from the local standard.

      -- One has to be careful about seeing "predestination" in historical
      trends. If the shape and size of dovetails changed over time, that doesn't
      necessarily mean that earlier workers were somehow under pressure to change
      the shape to the later form. The weakness of the joint could be approched
      in other ways; dovetailed chests from the Mary Rose were reinforced with
      nails. A late 15th century French chest has discreet reinforcing plates
      over the joints (but these may not be original). Simply limiting the types
      of wood you use might control the problem sufficiently for your purposes.

      -- Perfect is not always the enemy of good-enough. "Turner's joints," where
      a round tenon goes into a round mortise, are inherently weak. Yet they
      survived for hundreds of years side-by-side with superior square
      mortise-and-tenon joinery for a variety of reasons (faster/cheaper, guild
      restrictions on who can cut a square mortise). Likewise, I've found
      continuous rotation lathes (flywheel or great wheel) preferable to a
      springpole lathe, yet springpole lathes survived as a commerical tool well
      into the 20th century.

      -- Popular style can influence production techniques. When ironwork was a
      display of wealth/status, boarded and nailed construction was the way to
      go. When painting and carving was the way to display your conspicuous
      consumption, joinery that left a smooth workable surface was desirable.

      -- I think understanding the mindset of medieval craftsmen is important if
      you want to go beyond making "medieval looking" stuff. My own revelation
      came after studying spindle profiles. The modern mindset is that spindles
      should match exactly, and that deviation is a sign of poor workmanship. But
      having looked at every period piece of turning I can find, there is almost
      always variation in the profiles. Even on "important" pieces, spindles of a
      similar profile vary. This has led me to think that the 16th century
      expectation of what "identical" meant was probably different than what
      someone in a modern mechanized era expects. I find this has changed how I
      turn.

      Regards,

      Fin
      (Tom R.)





      ------------------------------------------------
      Tom Rettie tom@...
      http://www.his.com/~tom/index.html
    • Beth and Bob Matney
      I am interested in locating some details (including images) as to the construction of the St. Paulinus (died 358AD) Trèves (transferred 395AD) coffin joined
      Message 46 of 46 , Jun 17, 2009
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        I am interested in locating some details
        (including images) as to the construction of the
        St. Paulinus (died 358AD) Trèves (transferred
        395AD) coffin "joined by means of dovetailing".
        As the wood is described as 'cedar', there is
        some question as to where the coffin was made.

        From page 219,
        Battiscombe, C. F. The Relics of Saint Cuthbert; Studies by Various
        Authors. Oxford: Printed for the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral
        at the University Press, 1956. OCLC 4071903
        http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/4071903

        footnotes 10/11 refer to detailed accounts of the
        coffin in Bonner Jahrbücher vol. lxxvii, 1884,
        pp. 238 ff; vol. lxxviii, 1884 pp. 173

        Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn, and Rhine
        Province (Germany). Bonner Jahrbücher. 1842.
        ISSN:0067-9976 OCLC Number: 3459165 or OCLC
        Number: 213803943 microfilm, OCLC Number: 297237884 eJournal

        If anyone has seen the coffin or the journal
        articles referenced above (or preferably a more
        recent analysis in English), please post the
        information. It would be most appreciated,

        Thank you.
        Beth Matney
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