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Last year I took Mr. Clay Spencer's traditional joinery class at the John C. Campbell folk school. I had planned for my project, a wood crib. Having no idea of any layout methods or anything, I was rather unprepaired and only had a simple, VERY small scale drawing of the project. Obviously, we did not have time to enlarge the drawing, work ou the kinks in design, and complete the project. Mr. Clay provided his table design as a good traditional joinery project for those of use who were unprepaired, and so that is what I ended up building in the class. We covered layout, slit and drift, forge welding, lap joints, test pieces, and rivets. In addition, I did several test pieces to cover mortise and tenon, square corners, and pinapple twists.

(As a side note, any intermediate level smiths that know how to forge weld and have a drive to work, should take the traditional joinery class.)

After the class, Mr. Clay emailed me and wanted me to take the spring version of the class, which I was unable to do, due to an art show that was held on the starting date of the class. However, I am going to try to attend the fall class. I have had a couple of opportunities to design, layout, and construct pieces using traditional joinery techniques, over the past year.
I think that a bunch of y'all over estimate what I can do, but I have improved over the past year, and I am really excited about this year's class.

I am a bit more prepared this time around, and this is what I have in mind.
scan0002.jpg

This will be the end to a wood crib holder about 25 inches tall and 21 inches wide. Actually there will be one of these on each end. They will be connected by four bars using wedge joints. (Two bars on the bottom and two bars on one side. The side that has the bars on it will be the back of the wood crib so that the front remains open.) It is hard to explain that and probably harder to visualize on your side of the screen, but I need to do some test pieces before I can draw that in.
The purpose and advantage to the wedge joints is portability.

The uprights, and the center "X" shape are 5/8" square bar. The two wider pieces connect the uprights at the bottom and top are 1/4x1-inch flat bar. The heart is 1/4x5/8-inch flat bar. The stock size for the flowers and stems is undetermined.

This is the third drawing. The first was a sketch in 1/10-th scale. The second was full scale (on copy paper glued and taped together,) and then this one which is drawn in 1/5-th scale with notes. This third drawing will be sent on to Mr. Clay before the class.

The flowers are daffodils and the piece will cover collars, forge welding (for the heart,) rivets, square mortise and tenon joints, and probably the wedge joints. I'll also have the pass through in the center and all holes will be slit and drift.

I am hoping to do the test pieces and calculations here so that I can finish the project in the week-long class.

It will be a couple of weeks before I can transfer the full scale drawing to a single sheet of paper. There are no art stores around here and I don't have paper that large.

I learned a couple of things in drawing this one out. This is not my first design that I was wanting to do in the first class. Not by a long shot.

Lesson number one! If it isn't "working," quit drawing! I spent several days trying to MAKE a drawing work and it just wouldn't!

Lesson number two! Don't start your drawing in full scale. That was stupid! After spending days trying to MAKE a drawing work in full scale, I sat down and in 15 minutes had the 1/10-th scale drawing of this project finished. Bumping up the scale took longer but was still a breeze compared to drawing full scale from scratch.

Thoughts welcome as well as suggestions.

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Dave,this is the coolest post ever!Thanks for so much valuable data,and i fervently hope that you'll continue with this project,and keep the rest of us in the loop,too!
What, exactly,are the "wedged" joints?
No hurry,i'll be following this with great interest,and hopefully find out in time.
Again,thanks a lot for such marvelous post!

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I do not know if you have a business around that copies blue prints for buildings or drafting supply. Is so you can take your drawing to them and they will scan it, blow it up for you and make copies. The cost is resonable in relationship to your time. Looks like a nice project. Can't wait to see the end result.

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fiery - it sound s like you had great class!! i really really like the design, love how the flowers come out of the top of the heart - and i just think its elegant :) do you mean a little bed when you say crib? am a little confuesed about what it will be, but i to await with interest - we will learn from your project im sure - thanks!

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I will certainly keep updates posted.

I do have a few printing companies in town but I don't think they will be able to print a piece this large. Even if they can, I will need to transfer the large drawing to a new sheet to eliminate some perminant lines that do not need to be on the finished drawing.

Wedge joints are tenons with a square hole in them. They go through a mortise hole and a wedge is driven into the square hole inside the tenon. They look really rugged and really neat and they are surprisingly solid. A woman did a patio table with wedge joints in the last class and they looked AWSOME!

Wood crib! What I am referring to as a wood crib is a frame that holds split firewood on the hearth next to the wood stove or fireplace. In the years past we have always dumped it directly on the hearth but I'd like a more tidy way to keep it and something that will hold a good night's worth of wood.

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i thought you meant a little baby crib or something!!! (that wouldve looked sweet too :) ) i know exactly what you mean - something i could make good use of instead of chucking piles of wood beside my cooker and knocking all the plaster off the wall.... very nice project :)

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So the tenon passes threw the mortise and is "pinned" or wedged on the outside of the mortise? Or is it wedged from the end like a hammer handle?

Also graph paper is your friend when drawing plans. Nice lines on the paper and very easy to "blow up" to full size by drawing bigger squares on the full size paper. This comes from drawing set designs, as I've yet to draw a metal project either to scale, or at all! Perhaps that is why I end up with so many "pretzels" when I work.....

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They are wedged just outside of the mortise and not like a hammer handle......I'll try to draw it sometime.

I've used graph paper and like it. However, I've found that I just need a few reference lines which I draw in and then erase when I'm done. Same difference I suppose!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Here is a visual on the wedge joint......don't laugh, I'm not an artist! :D Hopefully this will get the general idea across though! DSC02995.jpg


Consider making the tenon horizontal Dave, leaves more metal at each side for strength

Pencil drawing looks good, but consider the practical side when making it, walls will be extremely thin in the positions you have illustrated which will give you problems punching them and result in a weak job.
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Dave,that's a perfectly legible technical sketch,maybe better than it needs to be.
I hope that it would be ok with you to use this thread to ask John this one question that i've mulled over for a while now...

John,horizontal or vertical,how DOES one go about morticing a tenon without distorting it's parameters?Is there a "classical" move to accomplish just that,a bulge-less pass-through?

Thanks in advance.

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Dave,that's a perfectly legible technical sketch,maybe better than it needs to be.
I hope that it would be ok with you to use this thread to ask John this one question that i've mulled over for a while now...

John,horizontal or vertical,how DOES one go about morticing a tenon without distorting it's parameters?Is there a "classical" move to accomplish just that,a bulge-less pass-through?

Thanks in advance.


Drill, chisel, and file. They don't have to be forged, bench work/fitting techniques are acceptable and easy to do and part of the blacksmith's skills, we are not talking huge amounts of metal removal here.

Or whatever works for you, Ironworker with oval/slot punches and dies, Slot drill in a milling machine if you have one, Slotting machine, end mill in lathe chuck etc etc, That's traditional for you, well it will be in a few years, with more people who do it that way 'cos they don't know the basic techniques and tend to look for an 'easy ' solution. Drill, chisel and file the slot and you can have it done by the time they take to start thinking about setting up a machine to do the job.

Hope this helps Jake.
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Dave - as mentioned above by John - I would run the wedge lengthwise with the side - the look "flows" better than a crosswise attachment, and it's a visual detail that is a focal point. - JK


The danger of running the wedge horizontal (Lengthwise with the side) is accidentally loosening it or catching clothing on it, also the thin wall section by going through the thinnest part of the tenon

My preferred way to do this joint would be to place the wide tenon horizontal in the centre of the cross bars at the top and base towards the outer ends but not through the frame sides and the wedge vertical through the centre of the tenon through the widest part of it, (if this makes sense) this is the strongest and easiest way to make the joint

Initially I would be looking at the function and soundness of the joint and then consider its aesthetic properties (you could decorate the top of the wedges with an animal head/bud or other feature, personally I would keep them simple and let the central flower motif be the main feature

Having said that it depends where the bars are to be fitted. You only show the proposed ends, and these joints have to be sited where they can be accessed to insert the wedge,

I am assuming you are making the ends as seperate pieces, and then inserting the stretchers/cross members with the wedges then being on the outsides of these ends, (you can then Flatpack them if you receive commisions)

If this assumption of making the ends one piece and securing them with these stretchers/crossmembers with tenons is correct, then my preferred method would be valid.

Others may think differently, and just a(nother) suggestion for you to ponder on.
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My preferred way to do this joint would be to place the wide tenon horizontal in the centre of the cross bars at the top and base towards the outer ends but not through the frame sides and the wedge vertical through the centre of the tenon through the widest part of it, (if this makes sense) this is the strongest and easiest way to make the joint


The wedge will be verticle however, I do not like the idea of placing the connecting bars so that two are at the top. This restricts the ammount of wood that can be placed in the crib, and provides a difficulty of placing the wood in and removing it. I would much rather put two of the four connecting bars through one side which will make it easier to place the wood in the crib and remove it. However, this is where I run into an unknown. My proposed size for the connecting bars is 5/8" square. That is the same size as the upright bars. In theory, a slit and drift hole should be fine, but I need to do some previous test pieces in my shop.


Initially I would be looking at the function and soundness of the joint and then consider its aesthetic properties (you could decorate the top of the wedges with an animal head/bud or other feature, personally I would keep them simple and let the central flower motif be the main feature


A agree here! The heart with flowers is the center piece and since the class is a traditional joinery class it would be best not to waste time doing overly ornamental wedges. I can play with that in the shop.


Having said that it depends where the bars are to be fitted. You only show the proposed ends, and these joints have to be sited where they can be accessed to insert the wedge.


If my drawing were rotated 90 degrees so that we were looking at the side, you would see a flat plane. The center "x", the heart, and the uprights are 5/8" square. The flat bar is 1/4"x1" or maybe a little thicker. Since that is the case, the location of the four connecting bars, and more particularly, the wedges is pretty flexible.


I am assuming you are making the ends as seperate pieces, and then inserting the stretchers/cross members with the wedges then being on the outsides of these ends, (you can then Flatpack them if you receive commisions) If this assumption of making the ends one piece and securing them with these stretchers/crossmembers with tenons is correct, then my preferred method would be valid. Others may think differently, and just a(nother) suggestion for you to ponder on.


That is correct!
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The wedge will be verticle however, I do not like the idea of placing the connecting bars so that two are at the top. This restricts the ammount of wood that can be placed in the crib, and provides a difficulty of placing the wood in and removing it. I would much rather put two of the four connecting bars through one side which will make it easier to place the wood in the crib and remove it. However, this is where I run into an unknown. My proposed size for the connecting bars is 5/8" square. That is the same size as the upright bars. In theory, a slit and drift hole should be fine, but I need to do some previous test pieces in my shop.


Hi Dave, you don't have to put two at the top.

If you are using 5/8" square bar for both cross pieces and legs, then you will either have relatively flimsy tenons, if you wish to keep the straight line profile effect on the ends as drawn, or if you are splitting and drifting, feature the joints.

The splitting and drifting is relatively straightforward, firstly make a drift the same size as the tenons size will be, (The tenons can be fitted to these finished slots)

Split your stock (try to keep the slot ends radiused), then open up this slit by upsetting the area as you would if making the hole for a round tenon or pass through bar, and then taking it futher until it makes a slot shape for the tenon to fit, drift this slot shape to the finished size. This will give a nice bulge as a feature, (the traditional joinery look)

I would then suggest jumping up the ends of the cross pieces to a similar size or just a tad smaller than this new (Bulge) dimension, then put the tenons on the ends to fit your slots, and seat them (monkey/set) in their respective situation to ensure a snug fit when the wedges are fitted.

You may have to make a simple length gauge to mark out the distance for where you incise to start the shoulders for the tenons to ensure all stretcher bars are a similar length when fitted. These lengths can be adjusted relatively easily if they are incorrect, but it is easier to make them right in the first place.

This way you get a more sound and stronger joint (more contact area to distribute any loading) than just trying to keep the metal outline in straight lines, particularly on this relatively small sectioned joint

Maybe I am a little overcautious and taking your drawing too seriously (there is usually always scope for 'blacksmiths licence' in a design), and you had probably thought of the joint effects any way, As the piece is for you as the client, it's not a problem, but if you submitted the sketch to a client they may expect clean straight lines on the finished article, the bulging feature is a part of the 'blacksmithed made' thing and a product of the methods traditionally used.

This is all part of the learning curve of "Thinking Blacksmithing" and how the overall effects of methods used come together and differ from the more traditional wooden joinery or engineering solutions and show in the appearance of the finished product. (I may not have expressed this very well, but I know what I mean)

Anyway, something else to think about. Looking forward to pictures of the finished item or work in progress.
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Latest progress:

Mr. John,
I did not state this, but I am planning on using the slit and drift technique for the wedge/tenon joints. That clears up things a bit. It would actually be a neat element to use slightly textured round bar of about 3/4" diameter for the conecting cross pieces. Just a thought. I did not initially add the buldges to the drawing because I did not know the size of the buldge. Test piece time!

Now I must do some confessing! I have never made a tenon in my shop. I have no tenon swages and I have no butcher. (Sad I know!) I have done tenons at JCC and have the notes written down on how to figure the mass, but no way to do them here. (Excluding filing one!)

A while back I made a guilottine tool with 1/2" fuller dies. I haven't had time to make butcher dies for it. I worked at that the last couple of days and got it done. I used the 7/8"x2 1/2" cold rolled flat bar for the body of the dies and welded spring steel for the blades and for a hitting block on top. The hitting block is tempered soft and the blades are tempered to a bronze.
Pictured with the frame:
DSC02998-1.jpg

One of the dies:
DSC02999.jpg

The whole rig:
DSC03000.jpg

I have attempted making butchers before, and after hours of labour, been unsuccessful. The moment of truth passed and it seems like I got a good tenon.
I did a slit and drift test piece (to document changes in stock length,) and made the tenon to fit into it just like I would be doing in the actual piece.
DSC03002-1.jpg
DSC03003-1.jpg

I'm going to make a monkey tool of sorts for squaring up the base of the tenons in the class. However, the butcher performed quite well.

I am going to do a wedge as well, just ran out of time tonight.

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Hi Dave one of the problems with the butcher set up you have is that of getting them directly in line and square all the way round,

Inititially I use an insert in the guillotine tool like this one (based on the traditional butcher) which marks the corners and then gives your location for the tapered dies you are using to get you square and level all way round

post-816-0-25598500-1317881272_thumb.jpg post-816-0-20688100-1317881226_thumb.jpg

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