Restoring an oak church pew


Hi
I recently bought an old oak church pew on eBay. I had it cut down somewhat for shipping so I did not see how the seat was joined to the two ends. How do I get the seat and back to sit in the rabbited groove in the sides without drilling screws from each end?
Many thanks
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Are you sure it's rabbeted? I'd think such an arrangement would fail when a heavy parishoner plonked hisself down. Tom
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I have some that were reclaimed strictly for the lumber. On mine the end panels had a groove the shape of the seat and back assembly routed into it. The seat/back boards were then held in place by glue. If the glue joint were to ever fail the ends "mortised" in a good inch into either side and would have been bolted down keeping the whole thing together. If yours is similar and you intend to leave it free standing I would think you would want to have something besides the glue. How about cleats on the underside of the seat? They only have to ensure the end doesn't separate if the seat and back are joined and resting in a mortised groove.
Daryl scbody wrote:

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No idea without seeing it - you can date old pews by the style of joinery used to attach the parts. Early Victorians used joinery, later ones had a simple glued and screwed butt-block underneath. Typically there's simply a couples of big grooves cut in the end panels (sometimes a sliding dovetail) and two or three of the long rails (but not the main seat boards) would have a single large dovetail cut into them to hold the end panels from moving apart.
If you're feeling medieval and you have some seat length to spare, you can even cut big tenons on the ends of the seat panels, mortices in the ends and hold it together with wedges ("tusks") through the tenons.
http://www.timber-routes.co.uk/archive/woodcraft/0018.jpg
(Maybe not quite as big as those - Paul oversizes his tusks)
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The sliding dovetail, as already noted, is an excellent option, in my opinion.
A variation of the dovetail AND mortise & tenon, in combination, an oriental (method) joint long used in building pagodas, may be another excellent option in your case. Cut a slimmed down version of a dovetail, ie. about 7 degree angle cuts instead of the normal angles. Cut a "V" shaped slot, about 4 degrees, in the end of the dovetail. Cut your mortise slot with about 10 degree angled sides, ie. a bit wider than your slim dovetail. Cut a "V" shaped wedge, about 10 degrees. Insert wedge into modified mortise as you insert modified dovetail, so that wedge slips into the slot of the dovetail. As you further insert dovetail into mortise, the wedge will further insert itself into the slot, and at some point the wedge will begin to push sideways against the two sides of the slotted dovetail. When dovetail is completely inserted, the wedge will have applied pressure against dovetail sides such that the dovetail sides will have, in turn, snugged themselves against the mortise sides. No glue required, but certainly wouldn't hurt.
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The ends of the pews were most likely screwed to the floor with angle brackets, trapping the seat and back between them in the rabbeted grooves. If you want the pew free-standing, you have all sorts of choices to attach the ends to the seat and back. Personally, I'd concentrate on attaching only the seat to the ends and let the back float in the grooves.
Michael Latcha - at home in Redford, MI

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Gentlemen
Thank you very much for your replies and advice.
Michael is correct, there are screw holes in the ends that would have gone into the floor. There is also no glue in the mortised ends so I presume they were jointed as Andy pointed out. There is a tiny dovetail angle to the mortised end that I did not notice the first time around, but to complicate things the seat base is curved to accommodate the parishioners backsides so I won't be able to slide the seat into the sides from the front. The back is flat though and there are screw holes at the base of the back where it was screwed to the seat.

1. Cut inch-wide pieces off the seat and use them as a simple block to go underneath the seat, screwed to the side and the seat 2. Put small wedges in the underside of the seat to push it up, thus leaving no visible gap in the seat base. (I don't think I'm smart enough to do Sonny's excellent suggestion 3. Make a dovetail out of the back and slide the back down its dovetailed groove in the side 4. Screw the back to the seat
Does this seem reasonable? All my best
Simon
Michael Latcha wrote:

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