Topped up

There are two sets of stretchers on the Stickley tabouret we’re making.  Once the bottom ones are complete, we need to start on the top set.  It’s relatively straightforward, as the tenons are a simple rectangular form.

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One thing that is crucial to the overall success of the build comes through here.  IT IS ESSENTIAL that the distance between the shoulders on the top stretchers be as close as possible to the distance between the shoulders on the bottom stretchers.  I use the actual bottom stretcher as my measure for this.  If you have two different lengths between your tenons, even if it is only a small distance, it will cause your nominally square assembly to distort.  So do take some care to ensure that the stretcher lengths are the same.

A brief aside here as regards the difference between working in a “style” and making a reproduction.  If you’ve perused the extant body of knowledge on a particular genre of furniture, you can probably create something in that vein, or “style”.  In this case, the Craftsman style is characterised by massively proportioned components, rectilinear forms, exposed joinery, and the prevalence of white oak (preferably quartersawn).  So if you were to create a piece that did not exist back in the 1900’s and 1910’s (Stickley never created an entertainment center, for instance), you can use those elements to make something that will be harmonious with the extant body of work.  This gives you a lot of flexibility with only a few parameters, mostly dealing with aesthetics and not construction.

If, on the other hand, you are reproducing a particular, preexisting piece, you are bound by the exact characteristics of that piece.  No matter how you would like to achieve a need, you are constrained by the details of the piece, even if it seems as if you could make it “better”.  In this case, the literature I have on this tabouret specifies that the top stretchers are constructed with a simple square tenon (the abundance of long grain to long grain gluing surface ensures a sturdy assembly).  If I were designing this piece today, I might choose to use a dovetailed tenon to ensure that even if the glue were to fail, the assembly would still be secure.  However, as I am reproducing a form, I am bound by the previous construction.

At any rate, once the tenons are cut, we again have to cut a halving joint where the two stretchers meet in the middle of our framework, and that will complete the top stretcher subassembly.

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