Maloof appears to pin the crest rail through the back legs of that
chair. I can understand why he'd pin the chair rail tenons as a
drawbored M&T is quite sturdy indeed. But when he pins the crest rail,
he's boring through end grain. I would think those pins would weaken,
not strengthen, then chair. Then it occured to me. Maloof's not
pinning the crest rail tenon. Despite the round ends, those aren't
pins he's using. They're wedges.
That's just a guess. Am I right?
Probably just plugs covering up drywall screws...
According to my uneducated guesses, it doesn't seem like pins into the
crest rail would weaken the chair very much, and it doesn't seem like
the crest rail would be taking a lot of stress as the chair is used.
And if we're looking at the same pins, and they're indeed pins and not
wedges, he is boring into end grain, but once the pin is inserted,
that would be a lot of long grain-to-long grain glue area inside the
My local library's got a video on him. Watched it with the wife and a
friend. Outside of the "Wow!" factor as we watched him sail that wood
through the bandsaw at all those odd angles, we remarked on all the
screws he used putting those things together and some of those were
into end grain and then plugged.
I can't tell from that photo where you're talking about, though.
I keep thinking that someday I'll check out that video again. It was a
few years ago and I've formed a few opinions of my own. :-)
The thing I remember most clearly was him talking about how he was
self-taught, which was why he used the bandsaw in a manner that would
give just about any shop teacher nightmares. He didn't know he wasn't
supposed to take a three-inch slab, put it on end, angle it a bit, and
sail it through a huge bandsaw, on a curve, to form the chair seat, so
he did. And lost part of a finger or two. He didn't know he wasn't
supposed to use screws, so he did.
I'd be really surprised if he's using screws on the end grain of a
Consider this link:
That is a wedged through tenon. I suspect he's wedging a non-through
tenon. Instead of square wedges, he's using round. Of course this is
pure speculation on my part.
The benefit of this method is a second chance. Normally, when you
wedge a non-through tenon, the wedge goes into the mortise along with
the tenon. As you push the tenon home, the wedge pushes the spit and
flays the tenon tight. The problem is you better have it right because
if it doesn't fit, it doesn't matter. The tenon's not coming out.
If Maloof is wedging with wedged dowel pins, then he could always pull
them out if the wedge doesn't fit quite right.
All I remember for sure is, we watched him shoot a screw into one of
his rocking chairs. You could well be right about him not using screws
on the end grain of a crest rail. I could even be wrong about there
being any end grain involved at all.
Now I've GOT to go check out that video again. Lemme see here.. my
library lists two video titles.
Sam Maloof woodworking profile.
The Taunton Press, 1989.
Sam Maloof woodworker
Aims Media (distributor), 1973
I think the one I saw was the first one.
Thank you. However I should point out that I'm using the Wisconsin
Library Madcat system and it's statewide and both videos are in little
town libraries a long ways away. I've got to request em both and wait.
And now that I think about it I can't remember seeing my library card
since that unscheduled dip in the river when we went canoeing...
I believe the crest rail really is screwed to the legs. The
combination of the legs attcahed to seat and crest rail and possibly a
number of slats is very strong. In Sam's own words;
" There are many palces in my furniture where a dowel or
mortise-and-tenon joint just does not work because of the thinness of
the wood;so I use screws. In effect the screw is a metal dowel. I am
not a purist. .... I have no qualms about this." from Sam Maloof
I am positive he uses screws to reinforce that leg to seat joint which
is sort of signature joint for him.
It's all screws. I took a class with Maloof many years back where he
discussed how he did this. I've also built a couple of these style rockers.
It's nothing more than an end grand to long grain glued joint, drilled
through the rail with 3 to 4 inch screws pulling it tight. Then the screws
are just plugged over with a rosewood or ebony plug for contrast. It's
actually very stable and since the rear legs are well secured at the seat
joint, it's not really a joint that's under high stress. The tenoned back
slats simply sit inside drilled holes in the seat and the crest rail.
If you see a Maloof piece of furniture first hand, the beauty is in the
simplicity and cleanness of the design. The construction usually follows the
same "simplicity". He doesn't do a lot of fancy joinery - it's all simple
Gary in KC
P.S. For another example of these types of rockers try this website
(www.haltaylor.com). He uses much the same joinery as Maloof with a few
design changes (like flexible laminated back slats - it's really a
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