The rule is the joint

Having Matt Bickford teaching here in my shop last week, and hosting a meeting for the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, got me to thinking a lot about making things with molding planes.

A set of functional hollows and rounds was something I always thought would be extremely useful in my shop. Let’s face it, I make most moldings using power tools. Sure, I custom grind my own profiles and modify stock cutters to make moldings that match the originals but having a set of molding planes would cut down on the wide variety of cutters I needed to buy and modify. The problem was finding an old set that was functional or justifying the cost of a newly made set. I want to tell you, it’s worth every penny to buy a set, old or new, and put them into your arsenal.

During the SAPFM meeting some of the group took notice of a period gateleg table that is in my shop. We started critiquing the table and someone noticed the rule joint. Their first response was “That’s not right, is it?” The answer was an emphatic “Yes it is!”

Adding movable leaves to a table was something relatively new in the William & Mary period. Most tables prior to this were fixed top tables. The ability to drop the leaves meant more room in your, well… room.

The rule joint we are all familiar with today is an outgrowth of this early version. You see, as the furniture became more refined, so did the joinery. Why have a joint that functions to keep the top and the leaves aligned but still exposes the hinge when you can make a decorative joint that accomplishes the same function but hides the hinge?

I guess my thoughts really started dwelling on this concept as I continue to develop my programs for Woodworking in America. It’s small details like the rule joint that I take for granted that lots of others find new and intriguing.

Next week, I’m going to show you a couple of different ways to make these two joints.

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2 thoughts on “The rule is the joint

  1. I was wondering about that joint myself when I saw that little table during Matt’s class. Rule joints were on my mind during that class, now after what Matt made us make, I think the rule joint would be a walk in the park with 1 pair of hollows and rounds.

  2. Looking forward to the next post!!

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