Blog #3 Japanese Carpentry
As I was preparing to make my final project (a coffee table), I decided to make my table easy to assemble and disassemble. This required some form of joint that did not include glue. I decided to use pegs that would fasten my mortise and tenon securely. I discover this kind of joint from researching Japanese joinery a while back. Japanese carpentry has been around for more than 1000 years. Japanese carpentry is known for its precision and ability to craft small to large buildings without the use of nails, screws, or power tools. This is possible by interlocking joints that keep the structure tightly secured. For larger buildings such as temples, tea houses, shrines, and homes, complex technique are used to assure strong joints. Often used in smaller projects would be the dovetail joint. Dovetail joints are considered a simple method of joinery.
Although dovetail may be a simple method of Japanese joinery, it takes time and precision to make it fit tightly. Large scale buildings require a great deal amount of sturdy and tight joints. Advanced Japanese joinery includes multiple pieces to keep everything in place, illustrated below. With such techniques, these types of joints allow for heavy duty weather, loads of weight, and dependability over time.
Japanese carpentry also cares for the wood they use and select. A popular wood used in Japanese carpentry would be the cypress, also known as hinoki. Cypress is known for its strength, clear grain and resistance to rotting as it ages. Cypress has been used for more than 1000 year in the Japanese carpentry culture. Though carpentry in America stands for carpet installation, Japanese has different names for carpenter and woodworkers. There are four major types, miyadaiku are experts in temples, shrines, and other large buildings. Second is sukiya-daiku, where delicacy and historic details are involved in the making. Teahouses are part of sukiya-daiku expertise. Third would be mainly in construction of furniture called sashimono-shi. Interior finishers are known as tateguya. Although there are four major type of carpentry, they all share the same principles of Japanese carpentry.
Japanese carpentry is a form of art in my opinion because of its form and function that are infused in the making of wood pieces. The process is very enjoyable and very much fun as I experience a novice technique with my coffee table. Japanese carpenter have perfect their joints over the past millennium and it shows in their finish products.
Blog #2 Tusk Tenon
My second blog is about tusk tenon. I wanted to write about tusk tenon because I am trying to make a coffee table which is sturdy and mobile at the same time. Tusk tenon were used since the Middle Ages, like modern days, people seek portable furniture. During those times, households were limited to space so fold up tables were necessary. After a lost one, family would send prized furniture with them. Being able to disassemble a piece of furniture would make sending it easier. The problem with portable furniture is not the mobility but rather the sturdiness of the construction. Tusk tenon, keyed tenon or wedged tenon all involve a small piece which assert force to hold joints tightly together. The small piece which holds the joints together is called a peg. Pegs can be removed from a tenon with key-mortise if pieces need to be disassembled. Though tusk tenon were not favorites in English joinery, German furniture frequently had them.
It takes little to no skill to make tusk tenon. If you have not done any mortise and tenon, you might want to practice on some scrap wood before your piece. Tusk tenon is a lot like mortise and tenon except it’s on the same piece of wood rather than two pieces. The mortise happens to be cut into the tenon. This allows the peg to fall through holding it in place. Once you are familiar with mortise and tenon, tusk tenon would not be a problem. For tools, it doesn’t take much to make the mortise and tenon. Using only hand tools, it will require a saw and a mortising chisel. A mortising gauge will help with the marking of the mortise. Power tools will decrease the time spent cutting mortises. Drill press and mortising machine will take out the wood much faster for the mortise, but a chisel is still necessary to shape out the corners. In order for a strong joint, you will need clear and straight grain wood without knots or cracks. Good wood for tusk tenon includes hardwood such as oak and poplar. Softer wood would cause problem after a few assemble because of the force asserted to keep joints tight. The tenon should be long enough to have a peg fall through the mortise. It’s better to have a too long of a tenon than a too short of a tenon. This way you can cut the tenon down if it is too long.
For table furniture you will need through mortises and long tenon with key-mortise. Begin with the mortise which the tenon will go through. When making a mortise, you should drill from both side of the wood. Doing so will prevent tears from occurring once you drill through the wood. The size of the mortise will depend on the piece of stock you are working with. The mortise should not extend one third the width of the stock. If the mortise is too big, that will take away the strength of the stock. The rule applies to the peg as well, no more than one third the thickness of the tenon. Make the peg slightly smaller than the chisel you used to make the mortise. The peg’s surface should be grain running both sides. Finally the tenon with key-mortise, this tenon will go through the first mortise and fasten with the peg. This mortise is very important because it provides the force for a strong joint. If the mortise is too far from the shoulder then it has no purpose even with the peg wedged in. One of the ends of the key-mortise should not pass the first mortise because this will allow the peg to have tension. Tusk tenon is more of a fashion sense now a day instead of being a structural sense.
Blog Post #1 Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) became one of the best influential and imaginative architects of his time. His architectural career lasted nearly 70 years. In 1887, Wright designed his first building in Chicago working for Joseph Lyman Silsbee, a pronounced architect at the time. After Silsbee, Wright found himself working for Louis Sullivan, spending six years with the most influential American architect of the 20th Century. His early buildings amazed the Prairie School of Architecture, architects who had a similar style as Wright. A style in which was to involve Midwestern lifestyle and the surrounding environment. Wright had a theory “Form and Function Are One.” In 1914, one of his wives was tragically murdered in his home in Spring Green, Wisconsin where he spent most of his childhood. His house was set to fire as well. However, many thought this would have ended Wright’s career but he was determined to rebuild his house called the Taliesin. During that time Wright’s work became very popular in the United States and Europe. His architectural and sociological philosophies were unique compared to other architects at the time. In 1932, Wright turned his house into an architectural fellowship for young architects to learn from him. As he grew older the winter of Wisconsin moved him to Phoenix, Arizona. There he built Taliesin West for his third wife and raised one child. On April 9, 1959 Wright died in his home at Phoenix, Arizona at the age of ninety-two. By then Wright was internationally recognized for his work and functions of his buildings. Throughout his career, Wright composed 1,141 designs and of that 532 of them got completed. Frank Lloyd Wright left us with not only famous landmarks but most importantly his influence on nature and the way we live.
In his final year, Wright designed his best work of all, the Guggenheim Museum and the Marin County Civic Center. The Guggenheim Museum took 16 years to build due to delays. In 1943, the director of Museum of Non-Objective Painting commission Frank Lloyd Wright to create a building for the Museum of Non-Objective Paintings. Director Hilla Rebay instructed Wright, “I want a temple of spirit, a monument!” Wright came up with six different plans and a total of 749 drawings. Wright designed involved an inverted-ziggurat which came with many modifications and additional property. Finally the constructions of the museum began in 1956. October 21, 1959, Wright’s designs came to life for the public. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum featured a spiral ramp riding to a domed skylight unlike ancient ziggurat. Ancient ziggurats were built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau. These were buildings with steep walkways to a massive platform where the main structure was located. Wright took the design of ziggurats and inverted to fit modern space for the museum. Wright came up with a floor plan which was accepted socially and culturally by architects at the time. Some even believe Wright’s design of Guggenheim was the model for every museum out there today.
In 1990, the museum was closed to the public in order to do some heavy interior restoration. This was necessary because it created 4,750 square meters of renovated gallery and 130 square meters of office space, restaurant, and storage spaces. This plan were included in Frank Lloyd Wright’s original plans but was not possible at the time. Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects added an eight-story annex to accommodate small rotunda, galleries, offices, workrooms, storage, and private studio apartments. The eight-story annex design came from Wright’s son-in-law, William Wesley Peters. The newly renovated Guggenheim Museum enhanced the exhibition of the museum without destroying Wright’s features of the building.
Frank Lloyd Wright primary influence would have been Louis Sullivan because Wright devise his theory on “Form and Function Are One” from Sullivan. Sullivan’s theory was “Form Follows Function.” Wright further expanded the idea of Sullivan because Sullivan believed that American architecture should not be base on European traditions, but rather the functions of American buildings. Wright also used the natural surroundings to give his buildings more function. For example, Wright would utilize low-pitched rooflines with deep overhangs to provide sunlight into the building during winter and block out sunlight during the summer. He never painted and only built with natural materials. Even in Urban city, Wright’s design included skylight which kept the house bright majority of the day. Wright’s philosophical of his designs in building compares to a tree. He thinks that tall buildings should be built like a tree, with a central base made of concrete. The central base would be deep in the ground similar to tree roots. With a central base in place, floors like branches would be built off the base. Taller buildings would capture more sunlight and moonlight for the interior. Wright’s design of low-pitched rooflines with deep overhangs also control the amount of sunlight allowed into the interiors. Low-pitched rooflines with deep overhangs interested me because I had no clue of what low-pitched rooflines with deep overhangs was, until I searched it up. It was simpler than I had imagined and that this technique was used in the homes I lived in. I would like to learn about form and function from Wright so I am able to imply it into my pieces.
Frank Lloyd Wright- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York, 1959