Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Amazing Asian Joinery on an Opium Bed

We have been very excited to be working on a unique piece of furniture here at the shop.  This 'Opium Bed' is being restored to it's previous glory, and it is presenting to us craftsmen some interesting insights into asian woodwork.

 As we have disassembled this piece we have discovered some amazing joinery unlike anything we have seen before.  These intricate joints are so well cut and carefully thought out that they stay together securely without any glue! The joints were hand cut with extreme precision, in various interlocking styles.
 There are also tiny wedges which fitted into some of the joints for extra security.  These wedges were also hand cut to fit exactly.
 This bed has been traced back as far as Hong Kong, but once it was brought to California the different weather conditions caused the wood to shrink slightly. Thus some of the joints have loosened.

 This bed has undergone previous 'repairs' in an attempt to tighten the joints where the wood shrunk, and unfortunately the previous repair job included screws and some amount of glue.  We are hoping to be able to re-repair the bed using only minimal amounts of Hide Glue in spots and eliminate the screws altogether.
When looking at this bed, one of the remarkable things (to us) is how advanced these joints are compared to the European and American Joinery of the same age, which look primitive next to the Asian joinery.  We wonder if the Dovetail joints which began to be used in America in the late 1700's  were based off of Asian woodwork.  I imagine the woodworker from America who first saw this kind of craftsmanship had his eyes opened and his imagination expanded in a big way

1 comment:

  1. I like this post great work indeed well don keep posting.
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