Most of the best structures for joining two pieces of wood together were created centuries ago by craftsmen who wanted their work to endure. These are mortise-and-tenon joints, dovetail joints, dowels, and half-lap joints. I use this joinery because it is still the best way to make something that will remain strong and sturdy for hundreds of years.
But while the joints remain unchanged, the tools for making them have become much more precise. Some craftspeople resist these tools, believing that their use compromises the purity of the pursuit. While I understand and respect this idea, it is my belief that a craftsperson should use the best tools available. Gustav Stickley once wrote “the problem with machinery is not the use of it, but the abuse of it”. The highest use of machinery is in the precision and accuracy it offers, not in the pursuit of dehumanizing repetition and speed. I do not try to hide the use of modern tools. I feel privileged to live in a time when these tools are available, and I look forward to tomorrow’s innovations.
Of course, the chisels, handplanes, rasps, hand saws, scrapers, and gouges are still indispensable to the process. The trained and intuitive hand of a skilled craftsperson will never become obsolete.
Exposed dovetail joints and wedged tenons reveal the structure of our furniture. Like a suspension bridge, the beauty comes not in hiding the structure but in exposing it.