more about scribed layout lines

For those of you who have read this blog a while, you will have seen before how Jennie Alexander & I work out some of our ideas & theories. This is another installment in such a back & forth…

The subject is a post I wrote the other day regarding a question a reader had asked about the scribed lines found on my carved work.

Leaving these lines showing is in keeping with period practice; and just like nowadays, some craftsmen took more care, some less. To illustrate just how care-free it could be, I illustrated a joined chest from Dedham, Massachusetts, showing the layout of the joinery (not just the carving) scribed on the front faces of the chest. Also scribed on the inside faces. I had questioned the need for this layout to be present on the faces of the stock. Other than carrying the layout from one stile or rail to another, I could think of no use for it…

scribed lines mortise
mortise scribed on front face of joined chest

Alexander wrote in:

  “Peter: Your wondering about joinery’s scribed layout lines puzzles me. The great majority of layout lines are found on the front face of stock. I believe that this is because the front face in joinery is most often not only the fair (finished) face, it is also the only true (tried and trued up) face. The interior face is not only often unfinished, it is also not true in relation to anything. Interior surfaces are often left riven, hewn and misshapen. They cannot accept accurate layout I find it helpful to think of joint furniture as “skin deep” since, in joinery, both fair and true faces are on the outside of the piece. It follows that most scribing will be found there..”

Well, says me, for the mortises, they must be laid out on the inside faces/edges. That’s where they are cut; not on the front faces. And judging by the furniture I have reviewed with this in mind, the majority of the layout for joinery is on the inside faces/edges. All the layout we really are left with is for mortises, that for the shoulders of tenons gets cut away.

In illustrating the Dedham chest I went to an extreme, just to show how much you can get away with…but I think most stuff does not have joinery layout marks showing on the faces. Carving layout is another story.

Here’s a simple example; a joined stool. First the outside face, where the apron meets the stile. No layout.

molding joint stool Essex co
joined stool, apron to stile

Now the inside view of the same stool. The height of the mortise is struck on both inside faces. Also present is the mortise gauge lines on both the stile & rail:

winterthur stool interior DETAIL
joined stool, aprons to stile, showing mortise layout

Here is the same sort of layout on the inside faces of a joined chest’s front stile. It’s goulish light, but I had to work it that way to show these lightly scribed lines:

mortise layout inside front stile
mortise layout, inside front stile, joined chest

The front of this same chest shows no mortise layout:

molding detail braintree chest
muntin to upper rail joint

One more for tonight, then I’ll continue this material next time.

This shot shows the inside surace of a joined chest stile; where the mortise is scribed top & bottom. This surface is mostly unplaned, the riven texture is essentially the finished surface. The bottom of the mortise is just above the notch for the till bottom; the top of the mortise is aiming right at the center of the till lid’s pintle hole…

layout unplaned surface
mortise layout, inside unplaned surface

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