Woodworking without modern fasteners?
September 8, 2009 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find woodworking plans or guides for creating outdoor furniture with a minimum of fasteners?

I've always admired wood furniture that's constructed with a minimum of modern fasteners (screws, nails, etc.) but is instead cleverly cut or shaped so that pieces interlock, dovetail, or pin together like a puzzle. I've seen an entire cupboard that practically falls apart if you lift off the top piece, otherwise it's perfectly strong.

I'd like to create some outdoor benches, chairs and small tables from a bunch of wood from an old fence using these kinds of techniques. Where can I learn more about this kind of construction? Does it have a name?

posted by odinsdream to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Try looking at Arts and Crafts furniture. Stickley, William Morris, etc. for inspiration. The term to search for is through tenon.
posted by Gungho at 8:24 AM on September 8, 2009

The term you're looking for is "joinery", and some traditional (i.e. no screws/nails) forms of joinery include dovetails, mortise-and-tenon, and many others. These terms should get you started, though....
posted by JMOZ at 8:25 AM on September 8, 2009

I should add that I'm also not interested in gluing pieces, if at all possible.
posted by odinsdream at 8:28 AM on September 8, 2009

Search using "knock down" or "knockdown" furniture.

Taunton did a book on knockdown furniture, I think. This book on joinery (recommended!), introduces some basic knockdown joinery.
posted by notyou at 8:50 AM on September 8, 2009

Pinned tenons are one example, timber framing is another. Keep in mind that this type of woodworking is much more difficult than standard methods.

I can't recall the exact search terms you'd want, but there's a type of construction that emphasizes low energy intensive construction (minimal nails/metal fasteners), in the context of creating sustainable housing in the third world. Someone else might be able to help with that.

Also, "modern" fasteners aren't especially modern. Nails have been used since ancient Rome.
posted by electroboy at 8:53 AM on September 8, 2009

You may find watching The Woodwright's Shop interesting.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:05 AM on September 8, 2009

electroboy: That's true - Modern certainly isn't a great word choice for this. Obviously people have used nails for quite some time.

Thanks so far for the information!
posted by odinsdream at 9:07 AM on September 8, 2009

Damn. Rogowski's book linked above treats "knockdown" as "Ikea fastener". Which isn't what you're after.

This outdoor trestle table is the sort of knockdown you're after. It should confirm what electroboy said above about the difficulty of this kind of joinery.
posted by notyou at 9:17 AM on September 8, 2009

notyou: That link appears to go to a registration-only page. Could you share a picture of it?
posted by odinsdream at 9:29 AM on September 8, 2009

In addition to watching the Woodright's Shop shows, Roy Underhill's books usually have plans for at least one piece of furniture without screws, nails or glue.
posted by drezdn at 9:37 AM on September 8, 2009

weird, odinsdream.

Here's a google books scan of a similar knockdown trestle table. The builder uses fasteners to attach the tabletop to the base, but everything else is wedged tenons.
posted by notyou at 9:48 AM on September 8, 2009

Here's two other examples of knockdown tables:

Knockdown Workbench

Knockdown Drag Out Table

Both of those are basically slotted pieces of plywood that fit together to form the structure. I'm not sure how they hold up over time. In general, stuff that you take apart and put back together quite a bit usually starts to loosen up and get a little rickety. Probably not an issue in your case though.
posted by electroboy at 9:55 AM on September 8, 2009

I remember reading that, supposedly, traditional Japanese woodworking eschews glue as well as fasteners, so you may start there. If I recall it was a Fine Woodworking article that had the reference for what it's worth.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:02 AM on September 8, 2009

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