The Class – Chapter 5

by Heather J. Paper

by Heather J. Paper

This class covers one of my favorite subjects, furniture. It is also a particularly lengthy chapter so I am going to break it up into a couple of posts.

One of the first things we learned about in this particular class was the various types of wood used in making furniture. I had heard of Cherry, Mahogany, Maple, Oak, Teak, Walnut, Birch and Pine. I was less familiar with ebony (isn’t that a color?) and rosewood (roses have a wood of some sort?).

If you are curious, ebony is used mostly in inlays and Rosewood, deep red in color, is often used as a veneer and is a bit on the pricey side.

Then there is plywood and particle board. You know that stuff that makes up the shelving unit you bought at one of those hated “big box stores.” The unit likely came in a box itself and you had to put it together with round metal locking devices and plastic pegs. Not that I am projecting here or anything!

After exploring the varied wood options we then discussed the several ways that wood can be joined together to make furniture. We started with the least desirable called the “butt” joint. I am not making this up – the joint to avoid is the butt joint. If the end of two pieces of wood are joined only by glue, don’t anticipate any long term association with that particular piece of butt joined furniture. Kind of works out well doesn’t it?


What is preferable is a miter joint, double dowel joint (pictured above – click the picture to link to a post with good information on wood joinery), mortise and tenon joint or ideally . . .

dovetail joint

the dovetail joint. It just looks pretty doesn’t it? The drawers in the Dresser from the Hood actually have dovetail joints.

A couple of useful tips I also learned from this section was to admire the legs of a chair and to look for the apron on a table. What does all of this mean you ask?

chair back

Well, generally your chair is probably better built if the back and the legs are one piece of wood. Take a look at the chair’s leg in the picture above. Now, follow it up the length of the chair to the back. You will notice that that is all one piece of wood. This likely makes for a sturdier chair.


As for the table apron, that is the piece of wood that runs from leg to leg directly under the top of the table.

On the above table, the apron is not too much of a worry. However, on a table with a leaf, this becomes important because you do not want a leaf that does not have an apron. It seemed obvious to me that the table should always have the apron on the leaf. I guess not obvious to all though because I saw a table last week with a leaf that did not have an apron. It looked very odd. My advice, avoid this or you will be forced to always have a table cloth on your table when using your leaf.

Okay, next week we will get into upholstered furniture and some more leg action.


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