Desk Job II

Continuing on with the account of the assembly of the Doctor’s reception desk…

The rear sill and cross-pieces were fitted in, one by one. Here, for some reason, everyone is having a good stare while I attach the sill at one corner:

This is how the frame looked from the back when sill and rear post assembly was complete:

Next, the rear stretchers, which serve to connect the rear post tops and support the tabletop, are fitted, using a sliding dovetail each side:

Then it was time for the tabletop frame rails, which fit to the post with a housed form of bridle joint:

And now the Maple grill bars, koshi, make their appearance. These have a sliding dovetail top and bottom, engaging in dovetail mortises in both the nuki and the lower receiver pieces. Unfortunately, all my close up photos of the connections are sideways, so, these distance shots will have to do:

Koshi install continues down the 2-bay wing of the desk:

The koshi, you might notice, are in a pattern of one thick – two skinny, which is termed the oya-ko, or ‘parent and child’ pattern in Japanese.

All the koshi are in by this point:

In go the intermediate supports for the table top; these drop in with a housed cog lap joint, and help stiffen up the frame stretchers and nuki:

Once again, this corner seems to draw a lot of attention:

Pretty exhausted by this point, here I’m sliding the end table rail into position:

It uses the sliding fork or bridle joint on front, while the rear engages with a dovetail tenon atop the rear post. You can see a dovetail tenon bare on the adjacent post in the foreground, and that the rail I’m pushing on has a slender tenon at the rear.

Another rail slides in, with a little help from Alan:

Well, this is sideways, but I thought it could be viewed without neck strain, so here it is – the rear table rail, which slides onto several tenons at once:

Where the rear table rails meet at the turning section, I had to be a little creative with the joinery connections – here’s a view of the housing from underneath:

The rear of the desk is starting to take shape:

And now the upper tie in the turning section goes in. I use a profile on this, derived from a Chinese pattern that also shows up in Japanese architecture. It’s called the ‘flickering flame’ or kato:

It will become apparent, hopefully, in later pictures, why the name ‘flickering flame’ is used. One of the things I notice in N. American furniture, is that when furnituremakers try to do ‘Asian’ furniture, they invariably use what is referred to as the ‘cloud lift’ motif. This was adopted first, I think, by the Greene and Greene design firm in the early 1900’s, possibly after they visited the Japanese pavilion at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase world Exposition in St Louis. Out of hundreds of interesting Chinese/Japanese design motifs, they adopted one. And the repetition continues on to this day, ad nauseum I would say – half the time I see the cloud lift done upside-down. It has become a thoroughly hackneyed borrowing in my view. Why people have not thought to look further at the many other Chinese/Japanese design patterns available completely escapes me.

Here, Alan and I slide the long side flickering flame board into place:

The long side of the desk, about half-way through assembly:

Then I began to assemble the upper table of the desk, which featured birdseye Maple panels. This is the 10% wider middle section:

The table frame rests on maki-to, or ‘pillow blocks’, which in turn attach to the tops of the posts. These spread the carrying capacity/support of the posts out over a wider area. The maki-to is commonly used in Japanese and Chinese architecture.

Now fitting the middle section to an adjacent wing, I’m tapping in one of the Wenge splines:

A rear view of that joint:

This is how the two pieces come together. The inside rail joint is different than the front, having a pair of floating splines, two different sizes, fitted in:

It’s coming together:

The entire upper table was assembled on the ground as a unit. Here I am trimming a spline after the connections are complete:

Now, I haven’t totally explained how that joint mechanism works, but have left a number of hints. It’s good to keep things slightly mysterious sometimes, though close observation of the pictures will reveal the mechanism to those who are curious. Remember, this entire piece is designed to be demountable, so no glue was used, only mechanical wooden connections.

On to post III

2 Replies to “Desk Job II”

  1. Well, if there isn’t inspiration in there somewhere… its an absolute marvel. I’m too old to become left handed though. Steve

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