10 Tuesday Apr 2012
Confused about some of our furniture lingo? Not quite sure what a veneer is? Well, we want to help you out. Each month we’ll talk about a common word or term used in our industry, define it and give you a little back-story…
1. A usually rectangular cavity in a piece of wood, stone, or other material, prepared to receive a tenon and thus form a joint.
Originally seen in fourth century shipbuilding architecture, mortise and tenon joinery plays a very large role in furniture construction today. Have a bed, sofa, table or desk in your home? Of course you do. Chances are one of those pieces may be constructed with a mortise and tenon. The tenon is a projection on the end of a timber that is inserted into a square or rectangular hole cut into the corresponding piece. It is cut to fit the mortise hole exactly and the joint can be glued, pinned or wedged to lock it in place. Think of a LEGO set; this type of construction is the same sort of idea: inserting the protruding piece (the tenon) into the cut-out cavity (the mortise) to join two pieces together.
It is believed that mortises made their first appearance joining the wooden planks of the Khufu ship around 2500 BC. In furniture construction, they can be traced back from archaeological sites in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Traditional Chinese architecture utilized wood components like beams and brackets that were made to perfectly interlock without fasteners or glue. The wood would expand and contract according to the humidity. Possibly the most famous pieces to use mortise and tenon joinery are the stones of Stonehenge.
Do you know how your furniture is constructed? See more definitions here.