Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bad Joints #2

For my second 'bad joints' installment, I want to tell you about this sad drawer.   The face of this drawer came right off of the box,  leaving the drawer quite useless.  Now, why would this happen?  Shouldn't a good joint stick together a bit better then that?  Absolutely.  Unfortunately there are so many drawers out there which are just one tough tug away from falling apart.  So before you go out and remodel your kitchen, or buy a new dresser, let me help you narrow down your search for a good drawer.

The problem with the drawer in the first photo, is simply that a 'but joint' was used.  A 'but joint' pretty much means that two flat pieces of wood were stuck up next to each other and glued together.  In the case of this drawer, nails were also used to re-enforce the area.   In my last post I told you how much better it is to have two flat pieces glued together than having flat piece glued to a contoured piece.  That is still true, but in the case of a drawer, which is constantly being pulled on,  extra measures should be taken to ensure the joint does not come apart.

Dove Tail Joint
So now, a few examples of a drawer joint, done right!   My first example is of a 'dovetail joint'.  This is the most commonly used (good) 'right angle' joint used today.  The benefits are that a well made dovetail interlocks giving extra stability to the joint. Also, the way they are designed, as you pull the drawer face out,  the dove tails bring the sides of the drawer out with it.  A disadvantage to this design is that as the wood shrinks with age, or dry weather, the wood can begin to separate and can eventually come apart.   We do get this kind of joint in for repair from time to time.

Pin and Cove Joint
Not so common, but an even better joint than the dovetail,  is the 'pin and cove joint',  also called the 'pinned joint'.   We rarely see this method used in modern furniture.  It was an American invention,  but it never caught on in Europe which ultimately lead to it's discontinued use.  It is however much superior to a dovetail joint.  We have never once had to repair a failed joint, when it is made in this method.  We have had plenty of drawers come in for other sorts of repairs, but with perfectly tight, in tact pinned joints.  In the photo to the right, you can see how this joint is made.  We took this drawer apart so that we could repair the drawer runners, and it gave us a perfect opportunity to photograph the 'workings' of a Pin & Cove.  The best things about this joint are,  #1  It is actually a little faster to make than the dove tail,  #2 There end up being more points of contact for the glue to adhere to because one drawer can accommodate many more 'pins' than 'tails',  #3 As the wood shrinks the joint actually tightens onto itself.  This is probably the single greatest reason why this joint holds up so well.

So if you are out shopping for a new bureau or kitchen cabinetry,  check out the corners of those drawers.  You at least want to see a dovetail pattern, but if you see a pin and cove pattern, snatch that find up!  You not only have a rare piece of American craftsmanship,  but you have a piece of furniture which will stay together for a very long time!

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