THE EFFICIENT SHOP
by Gero Sassenberg
Change the way you
think about joinery
Choices between visible and hidden
joinery have a big impact on efficiency
Architecturally speaking there are two ways to deal with visible
joints between materials. One is to hide the joint and the other is
to highlight it. The approach to this need in building any structure are many, and depend to a large extent on what is being
built and the materials in question as well as the desired esthetics of the completed work.
To put a finer point to these statements, there is also our
natural acceptance of other joints between materials in accordance with expectations such as joints between different
materials or materials at angles to one another. What is not yet
fully understood or accepted are joints between materials jointed
in the same plane. The reason for this is that in custom work, visible surface joints, no matter how large the piece is, do not meet
I am not talking about joints in countertops, where depending
on the materials in question, joints can be well-hidden or made
as neat as possible. I am talking about nurses stations or bank
counters and such that traditionally were built in-situ, thus allowing the appearance of seamless jointing between segments on
vertical visible surfaces.
Precision changes joinery
Such practices stem from a period when precise sizing of
components was not possible. From a period when the craft
required for such workmanship was available. Such furniture
pieces are now primarily built in workshops and transported to
their required site in segments. To ensure that the segments
eventually fit together seamlessly, they must be staged in the
Such setting up and staging is costly and can be avoided by
taking the more practical attitude to joints by highlighting them.
With today’s software and screen-to-machine possibilities we
can size all components of such stated pieces to a degree of
precision no longer visible to the eye. This equally applies to flat
panel processing as well as to solid lumber machining. Think of
the huge amount of time that can be saved by taking this attitude
toward precision for every component produced. Think of the
time saved by avoiding the still prevalent idea that “specials”
need to be treated differently. Drop the belief that such compo-
In these reception desk designs, the top shows hidden
joinery while the bottom has a visual joint. The appearance
difference is not as significant as the time saved in the shop.
nents need to be fitted in the shop and sizing cannot be relied on
by generating precise material lists.
To be sure, often architects and designers may require such
hidden joints for nostalgic reasons, or simply because they have
not thought otherwise. Is it not then our duty to inform them of
the options which affect the costs of such a choice? Architects
are not cabinetmakers, nor are they conversant with the minutia
of our business. While all that is as it should be, it behooves us to
educate them as to new realities as they present themselves. ❮
Gero Sassenberg’s experience in the woodworking industry
spans more than 30 years on three continents. He has provided
valuable advice to a wide variety of businesses over the years.
For more information about his consulting services, contact him
directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.