Old joints were messy

We like to think that joints should be nice and clean, crisp. But that was not always the case. Functional furniture had functional joints, even if they weren’t pretty. Below is a half-blind dovetail joint from a drawer in a vintage piece of furniture. Notice that the pin is thin, over-cut, and irregular in shape. In this drawer there are four pins, and three long tails. The joints are rough, but fit together well, and produce a joint with character.


Christopher Schwarz in his latest book The Anarchist’s Design Book, talks about the fact that we have been “ruined by plastic and its inhumane smoothness“, that we look for smoothness everywhere, including the inside of a chest of drawers. Real hand-made furniture does not need to be perfect. Perfection is for engineered things, such as jet turbines.

It is okay for joints in furniture to have a disheveled appearance, as long as they do their job.




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