FURNITURE COMPONENT TERMINOLOGY ©

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furniture header

 FURNITURE QUALITY:
THE SUM OF THE QUALITY OF ITS’ COMPONENT PARTS

Identifying component parts of furniture is key in learning to judge each component for uniformity and quality of both shape and joinery.



Finding quality furniture,
we no longer judge the component parts;
we enjoy the beauty of the whole.

components of chairs for blog

Identifying each component helps us focus on the design or style of furniture and make it easier to recognize and compare similarities and differences of finished designs—–plain and ornamented.

Each of these components is common to every chair:
contemporary and traditional
.    

TOP RAIL:

component top rail for blog

A rail across the top of a side chair and joined to the splat or spindles.
Top rails may be simple or incorporate embellishment as carving.

SPLAT:
parson-rocker
Vertical panels in the center back of a chair–joined to top rail and chair seat.
Plain or ornate, splats showcase creative abilities.

SPINDLES:
nakashima
Spindles of all sizes and shapes are mounted vertically as railings and chair backs. Windsor chairs incorporate multiple spindles from the top rail to the seat, capitalizing on the design principle of repetition. Spindles may be hand-carved or made on a spindle carving machine.

LEGS/FEET:
legs and feet for blog

Chair and table legs and feet may be simple or distinctive.
The Egyptians hand-carved bird and dragon claws,
often grasping a ball at the base of chair legs.

APRON:

component apron for blog

A flat horizontal frame made of solid pieces of wood
that connect and support vertical components of chair seats or tables.
Apron corners must be securely joined to legs for stability (see corner blocks) .

STRETCHERS:

component stretcher for blog

Simple horizontal rails of wood connect legs of tables or chairs to each other.
Stretchers maintain vertical stability and offer a place to hang one’s feet!

STILES:

stiles 3 for blog
Stiles are vertical solid wood rear legs that extend the full height of the chair.
They are joined to the top rail, splat and apron.

JOINERY:
Joining structural components for strength and durability is a measure of craftsmanship and the quality of furniture.

Learning her antique table was not valuable, the owner’s pain
was palpable as experts on the Antique Roadshow explained
the drawer front wobbled because it was not dovetailed; and a
leg was loose because it was joined by a single dowel instead
of mortise & tenon.

MORTISE AND TENON:
component mortise and tenon for blog
A tenon (straight-sided, square-cornered projection) at the end of a piece of wood fits precisely into the mortise (straight-sided, square-cornered cavity) hollowed from the piece of wood to be joined.

Component joined mortise and tenon for blogBoth the mortise and the tenon are interlocked with glue so their tight-fitting straight edges and corners resist movement. This joinery provides strength and longevity.

DOUBLE DOWELING: two dowels and two holes
DOUBLE DOWELING
Two round projections or dowels on one piece of wood are glued into corresponding holes drilled in the other.  This, also, is secure joinery.

Single dowel joinery (one dowel and one hole) may result in loose joinery. 

CORNER BLOCKS:component corner blog for blogCorner blocks are necessary reinforcement.
Shaped blocks of wood are glued and screwed into the corners of the rails of a table or chair where legs are joined to the apron beneath the flat surface.

DOVETAIL:
component dovetail for blog
Alternating positive and negative ‘tooth-like’ shapes cut into the ends of two boards are interlocked and glued at right angles.

component joined dovetail for blog
Interlock the fingers of both hands tightly.
Your ‘grip’ mimics dovetail joinery.

Dovetail is excellent joinery especially for corners of drawers.
The wood cannot separate as a drawer is pulled back to front.

DADO JOINT:
A channel is cut into the side of one piece of wood to accommodate the edge of a second piece of wood glued into the channel.

MITER:
Ends of two pieces of wood are each cut at perfect 45º angles. Joined, they become a perfect 90º angle.   Mitered corners are a sign of quality for both door frames and picture frames.

BUTT JOINT:
Two end pieces of wood butted-together and held with glue and screws. This is not durable wood joinery.

TONGUE AND GROOVE:
Consecutive pieces of wood are joined by interlocking cut-outs, just as pieces of a puzzle interlock.  Hardwood floor boards are usually installed using tongue and groove joinery.

Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

My next post: EMBELLISHING WOOD SURFACES