Author Topic: attaching table tops, small side/work tables  (Read 9958 times)

macchips4

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attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« on: April 22, 2015, 09:17:04 PM »
   Other than glue blocks, "pocket screws" or "buttons", what were the original methods of attaching solid wood tops to tables, small side/work tables? would round pegs with square heads/ends have been used? Like wooden nails joining the tops to the rails? would/should this method be replicated? or just stay with carved pockets and screws?....making some small side tables of solid walnut and I'm not sure if I should try the wooden peg/nail idea....just thinking...Any thoughts?

Jack Plane

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2015, 02:24:35 AM »
From a British perspective, pegs were used during the Age of Oak (and also through the eighteenth-century – but only in rustic tables).

Pocket screws reigned throughout the eighteenth-century and well into the Victorian era, though sadly, with factory mechanisation came machine-made slots and 'buttons'.

When tapered pegs were employed to secure table tops onto their frames, they were driven in at slight and alternating angles with tremendous effect.
Regards, Jack.

zdillinger

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2015, 08:34:43 AM »
Nails are pretty common on early American pieces, less so on later work.

msiemsen

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2015, 05:12:40 PM »
 "would round pegs with square heads/ends have been used? "

My experience with pegs is square pegs in round holes. I make the peg just slightly under or equal to the diameter of the hole, as Jack Plane said, angle the holes opposite each other. I knock the bottom corners off of the peg off with a chisel or tap them in to a tapered hole in my dowel jig in preparation to starting in the hole. Be sure to keep the sides of the peg parallel to the grain to avoid splitting. Use straight grain stock. Practice on scrap.
Pegs will hold a top on just fine. Never lift a piece by the top but always grab below the apron or you may end up with a top in your hands!
Mike Siemsen
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Jack Plane

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2015, 10:00:46 PM »
"Be sure to keep the sides of the peg parallel to the grain to avoid splitting".

In my experience, the majority of makers paid no attention to the pegs' growth rings/side orientation; however, some makers used solely 'rift-split' pegs and inserted them with the growth rings parallel to the grain of the leg/table top etc., which results in the characteristic lemon-shaped peg ends.

The deformation of 'lemon pegs' further integrates the pegs with the parent material. Properly shaped and inserted straight-grained oak pegs are every bit as tenacious as sharp-cornered wrought nails.
Regards, Jack.

msiemsen

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2015, 10:19:58 PM »
Jack,
I was referring to the sides of the peg and the grain of the material it is going in to. The wood is apt to split if the peg is driven in to appear "diamond" rather than square.
I believe the lemon peg shape is a result of using shell auger bits which leave a lemon shaped hole.
You can see the hole and resultant peg in this photo.
Mike Siemsen
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Jack Plane

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2015, 10:42:27 PM »
Indeed, you are quite correct. Holes were routinely made with straight-sided shell bits (not to be confused with helical auger bits), whose across-grain tearing action created the weak areas which contributed to the formation of the lemon shape.

Carelessly shaped and randomly inserted pegs don't always align diagonally with the grain of the parent material. There is evidence though that some makers purposely aimed for 'lemon pegs'. Their insertion into green wood would have required less effort with greater holding power upon the drying of the wood. 

Forgive me if I have misunderstood you or if I'm unnecessarily clouding the topic.
Regards, Jack.

msiemsen

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2015, 11:18:14 PM »
FYI. The peg in the photo was a square peg driven into the shell auger hole and then driven out from the back side in dry pine.
Mike Siemsen
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macchips4

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2015, 09:38:00 AM »
Thanks for everyones posts and information...Is there a time period/style that pegged tops would be except-able or taboo? I'm sure that with screws being expensive or hard to come by, the use of pegs would be early/mid 1700's? Would it be common for a  Walnut Queen Anne or Chippendale lowboy have pegged tops? Or mostly to the earlier William and Mary style? I understand the angling of the pegs to maximize the holding of the top but would that be a practice for today? (people do not seem to be as caring for their possessions or furniture today as they were in the past and always seem to pick up small tables without any thought). The reason I bring this up is because in making a few simple shaker side tables the drawer runners/guides many times interfere with the screws to be driven "straight up" and the angling of the screw sometimes shifts the top during assembly...I've attached tops, before fitting drawers/guides etc. or sometimes just drill access holes in the guides...but all that seems just a work around...not "the way it was originally done"....Just thinking out load

Kees

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2016, 08:15:11 AM »
Hello,

Sorry for bringing up this old thread, but it is relevant to my current project. I started to make a cupboard, a little bit in the style of the 17th century. I see that fastening a top with oak pegs was the usual method back then. But wouldn't that create a horrible crossgrain situation with spitting tops as a result? Of course in a boarded contruction, the grain direction of top and sides is the same, so no problem there, but what about a joined construction of the sides?

Greetings, Kees

Peter Storey Pentz

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2016, 04:21:03 PM »
Kees,

Yes, you are correct, it might split.  Then again, it might not.  The same situation faced our woodworking forbears.  That is why there are a lot of split tops and sides on period furniture.  It just depends on how closely you want to adhere to period technique and how lucky you feel.  PSP

Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd.

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Re: attaching table tops, small side/work tables
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2016, 05:44:58 PM »
I've made tables using "fake" pegs. Their length is equal to the thickness of the top. Then I fasten the top using the floating block method. It looks authentic from the top and will never split.

Dennis Bork
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Professional period furniture maker since 1985.  Received a B.S. degree in physics then apprenticed and worked as a wood patternmaker for 12 years. Retired Dec. 2018.