The August 2008 issue of WOODWORK has an interesting article on Susan
Working which contains a side bar titled The Art of The Shortcut.
The traditional / conventional approach to doing a piece of furniture is
to either do drawings or work from drawings in which most, if not all of
the design elements and considerations are worked out on paper, or with
digital representations - FIRST - then move on to selecting the stock,
preparing it and making the parts - including the joinery.
For the first 15 years of her woodworking career - mainly making
furniture, that's the approach she took. But over the last 5 years
she's taken another approach termed as "planned chance".
"What's really interesting to me is what hapens when a functional object
and an improvisational process collide."
Here I thought I was just Winging It - "I want something that's about
"this tall", about "this deep" and about "this long" - go get some wood
at least "this long" and "about this wide" and "about this thick"- prep
it - cut it - figure out what goes where - THEN figure out how to stick
the parts together - and once the basics are put together begin refining
things, adding where needed, maybe removing or replacing something,
adding edge treatments, maybe a line inlay - and stop when it looks
The fun and games is how to hold the "stuff" together as I go. And
there's where I've got two alternatives - pocket hole screws and maybe
routed locking miter joints - or "traditional joinery" - dovetails,
tongue & grove, dados, mortise and tenon, sliding dovetails, ... - ALL
reversible AND self aligning/self supporting.
If I HAD to cut the traditional joinery by hand - well that sort of
conflicts with improvising. But thanks to things like variable spacing
dovetail jigs, jigs/machines/tools that make loose tenon joinery pretty
quick and easy, and a router table with a good fence and an assortment
of router bits I can do "traditional" joinery - without the time
required - and a lot less skill.
And that gets to my question - does having the jigs and machines and
tools to make it easy to do - and use - "traditional" joinery change
what and how you design and build furniture - and how much do they
contribute to improvising?