A different perspective on joints and trim

When I travel I inherently start looking at how things are constructed. Sometimes I think there is a huge misconception about how wooden things are made. Talk about joints and many think dovetails are the ultimate in joints – but few stop to remember that dovetail joints are quite new from the perspective of being such a widely use joint (although they have been around since Egyptian times). Many vintage pieces of furniture, and indeed things like doors made heavy use of mortise and tenon joints. The joint below is from a door in a historic Norwegian house (in Bergen) – the through mortise-and-tenon is wedged with large wedges.

A wedged mortise-and-tenon on a door

Another interesting thing is doors with recessed panels. Conventional thinking would have the frame built for these doors using blind mortise-and-tenon joints, with the panels likely recessed into the door. However older doors often had through mortise-and-tenon joints, and used external moulding on both sides to retain the panel. Not quite what one would expect. Is it lower quality because of this? Hardly.

Recessed panels

Painted or raw, the mortise-and-tenon joints look good, and they tell  story. The external moulding turns into a feature of the door versus a bland piece of household architecture. When did our doors become so boring (and heaven forbid hollow)?



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