What is a Dutchman?


A Dutchman is a technique or devise for joining two pieces of wood together. Picture a figure-eight with square corners, or two dovetails set end to end tapering to a waist in the middle. A physical description might be, a piece of wood one and a half inches long by three-quarter inches wide with an angle of seven degrees cut from each corner and meeting in the middle of the length. The earliest example of Dutchmen in my own experience was a Peruvian cupboard from the 17th century, brought into my shop for repair. The sides of the cabinet consisted of three boards joined together, edge to edge, with Dutchmen...but I would guess the Peruvian craftsman did not call them Dutchmen. I think the term, Dutchmen, is meant to denote thrift. A wide board subject to expansion and contraction by the elements will split. Rather than replace the board, a Dutchmen would be used to check the split from widening or opening further. The Peruvian cabinet had additional Dutchmen in the side boards, installed years later, for just this purpose; and that is how I repaired the cabinet. The grain of a Dutchmen is usually set at right angles from the grain of the two boards being joined. In the case of the handrail, this would be an exception. You can make a through Dutchmen, showing on either side of an assembly, or the Dutchmen can be pocketed, like a one-half inch thick Dutchmen holding together a mass, or the butt ends of a two inch by three inch handrail. A Dutchman would have been a devise in common usage prior to the invention of glue, and the advent of frame and panel construction, which tends to alleviate the problems of associated with expansion and contraction. daclark
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'da' -
My 'interpretation' was always that it was a 'repair'. Could be the 'hourglass' shape, or almost anything else. Most typically these days you will see it on the surface veneers of sanded plywood.
I have seen the 'joining' type. Many times used as a 'decorative accent' as well as functional. They can be any size. In fact templates are available which have maybe 5 or 6 'cutouts' on one sheet of plastic. Contrasting woods usually suggested.
Regards, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop

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daclark wrote:

Also known as a "butterfly" -- a nice descriptive name imo.

I don't know where the term originated but I believe the technique is much older than 17th century (altho I note you only referred to your experience, not in general), I don't have a good reference on the oldest known example. (I want to say I've seen it in pictures of Egyptian stuff, but can't be sure that's true...)
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"daclark" wrote in message

In my neck of the woods, it is also any kind of "patch" in a wood surface that hides a flaw or mistake.
... and, as you correctly state, it has a definite connotation of admirable "thrift" on the part of the artisan.
--
www.e-woodshop.net
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And, while a "bowtie" shape is common and traditional, virtually any shape, such as a rectangle, that fills the void (mistake, knot, whatever) fits the definition. There's a router bit, and set of collars, specifically designed to (1) rout out the defect then (2) rout the suitable shape from scraps using a simple template for each cut (one with the collar, one without). Once that shape has been routed, it's a simple matter to run the scrap thru a table saw (or maybe a bandsaw) so that it pops out, then "fuss" with the corners to make for a snug fit. Glue it in place and sand the patch smooth.
One "beauty" of a dutchman is that it's not supposed to be "perfect." It's a patch. The bowtie need not be symmetrical, a rectangle need not be "a rectangle." You can even make them oval shaped (like the patches you'll see on "D" plywood).
Jim Stuyck
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I knew I could count on you gentlemen to help fill in on the various usages and descriptive nouns. All have made excellent contributions...there are a lot of ways to work wood. Once, I made a conference table with twelve sides. The perimeter surround on the top was three-inch wide oak, with decorative 'butterfly-shaped' dutchmen at each joint. da
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A dutchman is a gentleman who originally came from the Netherlands.
--

Larry Wasserman Baltimore, Maryland
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snipped-for-privacy@fellspt.charm.net () wrote in

Born 1944, Hilversum, The Netherlands. In the US since 1969
--
Best regards
Han
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Han wrote:

Hello Han, I would ask if you are the product of an old world apprenticeship? And if so, could you tell us a little bit about it?
I began my trade with a family of Swedes, who immigrated in 1923. They believed if you could not build it with only a hammer, a handsaw, a jack plane, and a jack knife...you weren't much of a carpenter... And weren't they right?
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Utrecht, even got a PhD there. I'm purely a (bad) hobbyist who can afford to buy woodworking stuff, but even at 61, still trying to get more common sense into my head. Just as example, last december I had a little mishap - a piece of 1/4 inch luan jumped onto the spinning sawblade and got propelled against my left index finger. ER and sowing up of a frayed tendon. Still have to get full mobility back. 2 weeks ago, I succesfully sawed off a halfbroken branch (~3 inch thick) of a dogwood. Had to stand on a stepladder - not on top, but just one rung lower ~ 5 feet off the ground. Stupid me forgot to ask for spousal assistance, which is now required and glefully given <smirk>. Branch got back at me by kicking the ladder out from under me. I fell on my back and broke my right upper arm. Trying to get doc to let it heal without inserting a rod or screwing a plate. Will know more late this afternoon.
Guess I need to do much apprenticing yet ... Im in favor of handtools as well, but won't hesitate to use powertools, either, though I'm going to be much more careful when I get back to it.
--
Best regards
Han
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Han wrote:

Don't disparage over having a day job. I've heard a hundred stories from guys that worked forty years at a company just so they could retire to their wood shop. Woodworking is for everybody and it is always a pleasure to meet a fellow woodworker...we all have horror stories. Apprenticeship is a lifelong pursuit... Thanks for your reply and best of luck at the doctor's office, today. regards, daclark
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You beat me to it.

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daclark wrote:

Prior to the invention of glue...? Exactly how far back in time do you think that would be - 20,000 years? I'm assuming that people started using that nifty fire invention pretty much right away to cook food. You cook meat, you have residue that is glue. So it's probably safe to assume that there's been a form of hide glue for as long as people have been taking hides off of animals. The lack of precision edged tools probably had more to do with why mechanical connections were superior to a glued connection (assuming edge-to-edge joining).
As far as the word itself, a dutchman is a repair to the surface of the wood usually to cover damage, knotholes, etc. It is rarely used as a primary structural repair. The double-dovetail, or butterfly, tie is a different animal with a few similarities. The butterfly is meant as a structural item and is commonly used to bridge checking to keep the check from spreading. It can also be used in new construction to join pieces together, but it is not a particularly strong, fast or easy method to achieve long-lasting joinery.
R
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RicodJour wrote:

I guess you missed my disclaimer of being all knowing... Of course, man only discovered fire so that they would have a use for that iron pot.
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daclark wrote:

A "Dutchman" is also a technique which wallpaper hangers use. Overlap two sheets of paper and run a knife through both papers...doesn't need to be a straight line either. Discard the waste of both pieces and you will have a perfect 'fit' every time. . . . . . ...or so Im told.
r
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http://patwarner.com/images/patch.jpg = 1000 words. ______________________________________________________ daclark wrote:

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Hello, this essay was originally posted on a number of sites, and attracted quite a bit of comment. It became too much to track the comments and remember what had been said where, so I've relocate to a central location I have established a new group for the discussion of the craft trades; woodworking, metalworking, sculpture, glassworks, pottery, etcetera; and the topic of apprenticeship in the inherent occupations of man. If you would like to join this group of professionals, as well as novices, in the discussion of the craft trades...use the link below. The site will be moderated to keep the junk out. No off topic postings, no sales gimmicks, and no trashing the other guy's opinion... daclark
http://groups.google.com/group/senior-apprentice
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