Dining chairs - screws through mortise and tenon? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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Dining chairs - screws through mortise and tenon?

New to the site, glad to be here. I recently ordered a dining set from a website that does wholesale from Amish fabricators. I got a quote for a custom set from a local, highly respected, shop and they said to keep the price down they often order chairs from this website. Just to be clear the people from this site have been fantastic to work with but after receiving the chairs I'm concerned that one of the websites suppliers is building subpar chairs. I'm attaching a picture that shows the bottom on a dining chair i received. Supposedly, the construction is mortise and tenon + 5 screw corner block + screws where the stretcher meets the leg (through the mortise and tenon). I've seen stand-alone mortise and tenon, i've seen mortise and tenon + corner blocks but i've never seen screws driven through a mortise and tenon!!! The builder assures me there is a mortise and tenon in there and that screws only strengthen the joint even more, he does this combination because he has to warrant his work that is shipped all over the USA.

My questions: (Please see attached pic)

1. Have you seen this combination before?
2. Will driving screws through the mortise and tenon weaken it?
3. Think this is a quality construction?
4. Any other thoughts?
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post #2 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 12:48 AM
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What a mess .
Send them all , the whole set , back .

And regardless of the screw thru tenon ethic ,
the screws themselves are not particularly well placed ,
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post #3 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 01:09 AM Thread Starter
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Can you talk me through your reasoning in a little more detail? I looked at this exact same chair at a a local retail shop and they go for $460/chair in cherry the only difference was no screws through the mortise and tenon so that is the only piece I'm really concerned about (I paid $260/chair). Thanks for the help.

As far as the block and 5 screws this is how they do them and they publish this in their advertisements so they really aren't trying to hide anything, they think it is an industry standard.
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post #4 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 01:48 AM
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The screws , they are the issue .
Not only are they not standard practice , at least in my experience , in 45 years of woodworking and almost 60 years of living on a planet where chairs abound ,
and even if screwing through mortise and tenon joints was the norm in chair building , not one of those has been done correctly .
The heads of most are not sunk into the wood , this defeating the purpose of the mechanical fixing in the first place.
None have been countersunk . One has chewed the surface so badly that the edge of the timber has broken away .
And one plunges right through the corner block and out the other side , floats across open space and only just manages to make contact with the frame , thus serving absolutely no purpose at all.

Hardly the work of a craftsman .

Last edited by Manuka Jock; 04-23-2014 at 02:13 AM.
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post #5 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 02:29 AM
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I agree with the above, this is rubbish workmanship.

1 - Properly fitted mortice/tenon joints dont need screws
2 - If any mechanical fixing is used in an M/T joint it should be a wooden peg
3 - The random angles of the screws tell the whole story, these were a quick fix for a badly made joint and will not hold in the long run.

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post #6 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 04:53 AM
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that's scary construction

Scary as in lousy. Screws in mortise and tenon? Never heard of such a method, and it violates all manner of proper craftsmanship. Here's a photo of a Murphy Chair I rebuilt and refinished showing the corner support and legs from this thread: http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f9/wh...s-these-39917/

Not a single screw ......

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #7 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 05:24 AM
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Not a single screw ......



Nice work , very nice
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post #8 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 06:13 AM
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Addressing the OP's concerns, the chairs aren't first class craftsmanship. But they are advertised as Amish made. Their fabrication usually appears to be hand made, and for some of it I've seen, isn't really crude, but close to it. Just the presence of hardware doesn't mean it's junk. How it's fabricated with hardware is more of a determining factor.





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post #9 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 09:16 AM
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I'd send them back.

The screw heads aren't countersunk. There are too many of them. There's visible screw thread. The screws look like they're too close together, although that's hard to judge from what I can see of the picture. The square-drive screw we can see part of near the top of the picture looks like it shattered part of the wood as it was driven in.

Basically, it looks badly done to me. I could see reinforcing with a single screw, or maybe one per tenon, but it looks like they put four of them through that pair of joints. It's overkill, it's unnecessary, and it's badly done.
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post #10 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 09:49 AM
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I would send them back also. If there were no screws and the joint failed it would just come apart and then could be cleaned up and reglued. With those screws in the corner if the joint failed it would tear the leg to the point the leg would be unsuable. The screw into the cushion is also too close to the edge of the corner block.

Of the hundereds of chairs I've worked on, new and antique I've never seen anything like that done.
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post #11 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 10:09 AM
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the questions are....

Quote:
Originally Posted by automationamateur View Post
My questions: (Please see attached pic)

1. Have you seen this combination before?
2. Will driving screws through the mortise and tenon weaken it?
3. Think this is a quality construction?
4. Any other thoughts?

1. No

2. Yes, it might. Anytime you pierce a member you risk the chance of it splitting.

3. Nope. As stated before, "sub-par", lousy, random, not done correctly ..etc. I'm sure if you were happy with the construction, you not have raised the issue and posted the thread.

4. IF the idea of saving the $$$ is worth it to you, can that is certainly a financial choice, but as far as quality we pretty much agree it's not the best traditional workmanship....Amish built or not. Some folks are stamping "Amish Built" on things that have no such involvement. http://temp015.customdemosite.com/ho...-from-fake.htm

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #12 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 01:03 PM
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This is funny because their "cousins" the Mennonites here in Belize do a similar thing.
They build a lot of the local cheap utilitarian furniture with green mahogany sapwood, the chairs are mortised and tenon then nailed.
I ordered some "utilitarian chairs unassembled and unfinished, the Mennonite vender wanted to know why.
If you look at most of their chairs they all dry and check/split right at the conveniently driven in nail/wedge and become useless in short order, I showed him some.
I pre-drilled the proper sized holes in the shrinking wood and inserted large screws through the tenons, filled and painted them.
Not the prettiest, but not a one has split yet.
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post #13 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 07:07 PM
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The issue there may be the green wood .

When the chair bodgers , skilled craftmen , in the Chiltern Hills beech forests near High-Wycombe in England , from the mid 1600s to the mid 1900s , they worked green wood into chair parts , legs spindles , back seats etc. taking grain orientation into account .
When the parts arrived in the towns for assembly they were semi seasoned .
The chairmakers , being skilled as they were , orientated the now slightly ovaled spindles into the newly drilled holes so that as the timbers continued to dry , the mortise and the tenon locked themselves together .
Those handmade lightweight sturdy chairs are genuine Windsor Chairs .
Accept no other .

Note that there is no mention of glue , screw , or nail .


If the green wood chairs from Belize fail , that may be due to a process that is a failure from the outset.
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post #14 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 07:55 PM
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They sell all the furniture grade mahogany to exporters.
So the issue is 1/3 the fact that it is green wood and 1/3 that it is inferior (not dense enough) sapwood, and 1/3 the fact that green spongy sapwood will always check, especially where you drive a nail into it.
They came here in the 1950's and have been doing this with the same exact "poor workmanship" method all this time.
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post #15 of 23 Old 04-23-2014, 09:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bzguy View Post
They sell all the furniture grade mahogany to exporters.
So the issue is 1/3 the fact that it is green wood and 1/3 that it is inferior (not dense enough) sapwood, and 1/3 the fact that green spongy sapwood will always check, especially where you drive a nail into it.
They came here in the 1950's and have been doing this with the same exact "poor workmanship" method all this time.
Assemble a few chairs without the nails .
Have a go with wood pegs , even try the drawbore peg method
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post #16 of 23 Old 04-24-2014, 01:12 PM
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After thinking on it, I don't see some of the issues expressed. Think of using nails instead of screws. If I wanted to "strengthen" a joint like that I would shoot a couple of nails at approximately the same location and depth. The angled location would would reinforce the against the racking forces of the joint.

Now suppose the person making the chairs was of an Amish sect that did not use power tools therefore could not use a nail gun. Drilling holes with a hand drill in the locations shown and driving screws in the holes would be the alternative. With screws, you can also control the depth of the screw very easily. You do not need to fully seat the screws to get the reinforcement needed.

I could be wrong but it seems to be a logical conclusion given the situation. All in all, it seems to be a very secure corner non-glued joint. I would buy any table or chair with that joint.

Howie..........
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post #17 of 23 Old 04-24-2014, 01:48 PM
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I had no idea there had been a mennonite diaspora to South America! Interesting.
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post #18 of 23 Old 04-24-2014, 09:05 PM
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craftsmanship

The screws add nothing and actually weaken the joint by splintering the tenon. A splintered tenon obviously reduces the substantial glue area inherent in an M&T joint, thus to some extent reducing its effectiveness. A properly fitted mortise and tenon joint will rarely come apart. The screws are a way to tighten a poor fitting tenon.

Incidentally, all this talk about Amish craftsmanship has me puzzled. They mostly build cheap utilitarian stuff as described above, including those space heaters that look like fireplaces built by chldren. Great barns, yes, great furniture no. I think people are confusing them with the Shakers, who were , of course, magnificent furniture builders.
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post #19 of 23 Old 04-25-2014, 11:12 AM
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The screws are actually the only thing holding the defective mortise and tenon joints together.
They were predrilled with the proper diameter bit to make it work, NO SPLINTERING.
As explained they shrink too much for glue to hold.
I don't make them, just found a way to get poorly made chairs to stay in one piece.
They are the only ones on my island out of hundreds that have 0% failure.
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post #20 of 23 Old 04-25-2014, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsnowdon View Post
Incidentally, all this talk about Amish craftsmanship has me puzzled. They mostly build cheap utilitarian stuff as described above, including those space heaters that look like fireplaces built by chldren. Great barns, yes, great furniture no. I think people are confusing them with the Shakers, who were , of course, magnificent furniture builders.
Cheap does not necessarily equate with shoddy.
Quality furniture that is cheap may exist because the manufacturers are not greedy.


The retail process ...
Quote:
In recent years, the Amish furniture market has expanded to include online sales. The Amish craftsmen, because of their beliefs, are prohibited from running the websites. Non-Amish retailers often attend Amish furniture expositions in Ohio and Indiana to see Amish furniture on display and meet the craftsmen behind the pieces. Relationships are often developed, and the retailer becomes the middleman between the simple life of the Amish woodworker and the modern buyer.
Amish furniture is now available to a wider market and to those who may not be in close proximity to an Amish woodworking shop. It is no longer necessary to visit a retail location to select the unique wood and stain combination desired; this can all be done on the Internet, and there are dozens of different wood, stain and upholstery options to choose from. The finished furniture is shipped directly from the stain shop to the consumer.
And here is where the rot may get in ....

Quote:
Our discussion came to the Amish communities in Pennsylvania that have been decimated some years ago for the lack of sales and I questioned him why this event occurred. Pennsylvania is the largest area for the Amish manufacturing of furniture in the country, but now Ohio may now be the largest, because of this event. He told me that some Chinese came into town and purchased a lot of furniture and left and the next thing they knew, there was a clear knock off of their furniture, but with different woods and a lot of it and cheap. They pursued the strange occurrence further and found to their dismay that the furniture that was purchased by these Chinese were taken to a ship just off shore, copied and reproduced and sold in their marketplace while the ship was just over the boundaries.

http://ezinearticles.com/?Chinese-Fa...ity&id=5422438
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