Greene and Greene

Greene Greene Furniture

1 made a roomful of hirniturr ■ the stvie of < harles and I 1 I brothers who designed house ture in ( all forma in the first d* century. One ot the most dittu making this lurniture was tindi produce the details, the little to dt fun the Greeni s work i: appealing to the hand and eye.

rentlv in C jreene. nd ftirni-des of this tilt asjvcts of : a\ S tO

niches that

The square black pegs, which are left slightly proud of the mahogany surface; the exposed splines also proud and genilv radiused back to the surrounding wood: the rounded double-L brackets—these and other signatures ot the Greenes' furniture are all deceptively tricky to make well. Once mastered, though, thev provide the basic vocabulary tor building furniture in the language of (.ireent and (ireene.

Greene And Greene Furniture

SWEET DETAILS DEFINE THE FURNITURE OF GREENE AND GREENE. Learning to produce them is key to making furniture that compares to the originals. The author's sideboard (bottom) and writing desk (top) are fresh designs, but their superbly made and marshalled details give them the ring of the real thing. Both are made of sustained-yield mahogany and Ebon-X, an ebony substitute.

The dining chair in the photo, one of a set of eight I built, is a straight reproduction of a chair designed bv the Greenes in 1908. \\* ■-kn g from p :.■-.* It 11« " tl ir example as closeIv as I could. The onlv concession the client and I made to cost was to leave out a subtle carving detail at the base of the legs. I rook a more interpretive approach when I made the sideboard in the bottom photo facing page and the writing • ■ n tli ' ' I : i • : 3 used a Greene and Greene piece as a starting point but redesigned the onginal to satisfy the client's needs, the demands of function and my own sense of proportion. For an account of how the sideboard evolved from its Greene and Greene forefather to mv final version, see the story on pp. 26-27.)

Springs of Inspiration

The Greenes' system of detailing did not develop all at once. It grew gradually as thev were exposed to a variety of influences and ideas. Like many craftsmen of their dav, Greene and Gre< i ivere dee[ Iv influenced b\ the /Vrts-and-Crafts movement. Arising in 19th-century England in reaction to the mechanization and shoddy goods of the industrial revolution, the movement was a call for honest hand craftsmanship. The Greenes were particularly influenced bv Gustav Sticklev and other proponents of Arts and C rafts who emphasized openh c xpressed joiner\- and function before frippery— features also evident in all the Greenes' work.

What set^ t! e Gnem - work apai[ is tin blending of an Oriental aesthetic with Arts and Crafts. In Japanese temple architecture and Chinese furniture, the Greenes saw ways eo soften composition of straight lines and solids bv rounding edges and introducing gentle curves. I"herc's an Eastern overtone .is well in the balanced but slitjhtk asymmetrical pattc mis ol ; Greeiii s di t liling.

Doing the Details

It's in the material I he impact of the details in the Greenes' furniture is partly a function of the materials thev used. (. ombining ebonv and mahogam gives the

Greene And Greene Woodworking

furniture warmth as well as a strong visual contrast. 1 wanted to achieve the same effects but-without using endangered woods. I considered using maple with walnut accents, but I finally chose sustained-vield mahogam and Ebon-X. an ebony substitute made of chemically altered walnut. The chemical treatment gives the Ebon-X a rich black color but also gives it working properties that aren't that far from ebony's.

Square pegs Glinting, square ebony pegs >f Greene and (ireene furniture. The pegs rise above the mahogam', and each little edge is gently radrused back to the surrounding wood, providing ,t reflective surface and .i i u't ilc message of hand cr.iltsman-ship. The pe*;s emphasize the joints in the furniture and many are caps for counterbored screws. But .is I laid out the mortises for them on the crest rails of the chairs, I realized that some of the pegs are purely decorative. I followed the Greenes' example in making the pegs Hi i van cry of sizes, from to in. sq. As far as 1 could tell, the variation in si/e was a matter of aesthetics. I found, too, that their placement was not exactly symmetrical. Rather than being lined up in rows, the


Greene And Greene Furniture

CHINESE BRACKETS FOR STRENGTH AND A SINUOUS LINE. Drawn from Chinese furniture. curved brackets (above right) tie Greene and Greene pieces together visually as well as structurally.

BRACKET ALIGNMENT IS TRICKY. At inset right, the author locates a dowel hole on his table by sliding the bracket along a guide board clamped to the apron and marking with a dowel center.

pegs were arranged in subsets slightly offset from each other to add visual interest (see the inset photo, p. 23).

I nude >«-in.-deep mortises for the dozens of pegs with my hoUow-chisel mortiser. It makes the job quick; the little rearout is not noticeable after I dim* in the slightIv oversized pegs. You could also use. .1 drill and chisels or chop the mortises by hand.

To make the pegs. I ripped S- or 10-in.-long sticks of Ebon-X. so thev were exactly square in section and fractionally larger than the corresponding mortises. I squared up both ends of each stick on the disc sander with the stick held against the miter gauge. I sanded out the disc scratches with 150-paper on my hand-held orbital sander. These sanded ends would eventually be the exposed surface of the pegs: achieving a totally smooth surface was essential.

It would be murder to make the tiny radiused edges with the pegs already in their mortises, so I did my shaping ahead of rime. I rounded down slightly on each edge at the end of the stick with an orbital sander, keeping the roundovers equal. Io get the gleam of polished ebony. I took the sticks to my grinder and burnished the ends with red rouge on a cotton buff wheel.

When I was satisfied with tin finish, I band sawed about X in. ofT each end of all the sticks and repeated the process until I had a good supply of pegs. The band sawn face would be hidden in the mortise, so I didn't have to dean it up. But 1 did chamfer the four bottom edges, so they wouldn't hang up or cause rearout when I drove the peg into the mortise. I did the chamfering on my stationary belt sander. holding the little pegs by-hand (leave vour fingernails a little long for this chore . Or you could do the chamfering against a stationary piece of sandpaper on a flat surface. I put a little glue in the mortise and drove the pegs with a rubber mallet.

Curved brackets Those little double-L brackets below the sear of the chair and the cases of the sideboard and writing table are derived from Chinese furniture. In addition to tying parts together visually and adding a curve, they provide some resistance to racking forces (see the top photo). While they may look innocent, they're quite a challenge to make.

I made the brackets in bundles. I made a Mason ire template for each size L and traced it over and over on a boaid machined to the correct width and thickness. Because the wide end of the L would he face glued. I pur it on the edge of the board to give it a long grain surface. I cut the brackets out on the handsaw and then sanded then- outside curves on my stationary disc sander and their inside curves with a sanding drum chucked into my drill press. To be sure I had flat, square glue surfaces. I touched them up using the miter gauge with my stationary disc sander.

/Ml the curved edges on the fronts of the brackets are rounded over, and I did the work with a router inverted 111 .1 vise, It von make i

Greene And Greene Woodworking

small push block with a foam or rubber bottom surface, you'll be able to get vour hands awav from the action while keeping good pressure on the little workpiccc. Because the gt tin changed dire» rion .is I routed around tht bt nd. I lour i 11 was imp«>r t int i<> g«1 fairly quickly and maintain even pressure.

1 doweled pairs of L's together and then dowi led and lace-glued them to the furniiun. as shown in tigure I.To drill the dowel holes in the I.'s, I clamped them in my drill-press vise with stop blocks set up to keep them oriented properlv as I tightened the vise.

(iluing up tht bi lckets was a two-stage operation. First I joined the two L's. I laid them on the tablesaw .my reliably flat surface will do' and pushed the dowel joint together by hand. I found if 1 held them for 30 or 40 seconds, I could leave them and they'd stay tight. When they were drv. I gave them a quick hit on the belt sander to make sure the glue surfaces were flat and square.

I he second stage was gluing the brackets in place. To locarc the dowel hole in the leg. I put a dowel center in the bracket and slid the bracket along a guide booed to mark J ho spot see the inset photo, facing page . After I'd drilled the dowel hole, I clamped the bracket in place using one small quick-release clamp to pull the dowel joint tight and .mother to keep pressure on the face joint.

Exposed splines The arms on the chairs I made are joined to the front legs with large splines shaped in a shallow S, Like the square pegs, the splines are left proud of

Fig 2. Exposed spline for breadboard ends

S-bortomed monis« is made with slotting cutter in router.

Fig 2. Exposed spline for breadboard ends

S-bortomed monis« is made with slotting cutter in router.

Bread Board Edge Joint

Depth of mortise

Ebon-X splme

Shaded area to be cut away

^Insert spime into mortise and scribe line on splme '1 in. from edge of top Remove splme and bandsaw close to senbe line then smooth with sanding drum and random orbit sander.

Depth of mortise

Back edge of spline is rough-cut on bandsaw

Ebon-X splme

Shaded area to be cut away

^Insert spime into mortise and scribe line on splme '1 in. from edge of top Remove splme and bandsaw close to senbe line then smooth with sanding drum and random orbit sander.

the surrounding wood and gentlv radiuscd back to meet it. The sinuous black line of tlb I >n-\ 11 rl) mahogam irm emphasizes the joint and underscores its double curve. Here the spline is structural, but where a similar element appears in the breadboard ends of the sideboard and «ruing table, it,is purely decorative.

1 made the loose splines for the chair by temporarily screwing .1 rough-cut dummy spline in the joint and flush-trimming it to the shape of the arm with a router. I remoi d it j d it is a tempi ite wuh 1

straight router bit and an oversized bearing wheel to turn out Ebon-X splines in. proud of the arm. As with the pegs. I did the sanding. 1 idmsmg and burnishing on the exposed edges of the splines before screwing and gluing them in place.

Breadboard on the sideboard I made the tops of ni\ >ard and desk breadboard stvle. as the Greenes did. I he breadboard ends are decorative in my piece because I used a veneered plywood panel and didn't have to accommodate seasonal movement. The ends are solid mahogany, biscuited and glued to the panel. At the front. I inserted false loose splines of Ebon-X. Because the breadboard ends extend beyond the panel, the splines had to follow in a shallow S-shape, as shown in tigure 2 above.

EXPOSED SPLINES MASKED MOVEMENT OF SOLID PANELS IN THE GREENE S WORK. 8ut the plywood top (above left) won't move. So the splme (above right) is glued to both the panel and breadboard end.

PULLS CAN MAKE OR BREAK A PIECE OF FURNITURE. Experiment to find the right one by mocking up a range of pulls (inset).


Greene And Greene Furniture

to stay closer to normal sizes if t had added a fourth drawer, but having more drawers m a stack emphasizes the vertical lines. I also preferred the appearance of three drawers. Call it mystic balance if you will, but an odd number of drawers always looks better to me.


The Greenes" sideboard has eight legs lomed by wide stretchers. I decided to omit the stretchers and adopted the bracket detail from the chair to add decoration and a bit more strength below the case. But the number of legs didn't seem right. I did a sketch of a sideboard with four legs, but I thought such a long side board would appear ill-supported on four legs even if it could have been made soundly. I drew a vers on with eight legs (see the center drawing). But that tended to emphasize the height of the piece and made for a clutter of brackets. So I drew a version with s>* legs; that immediately looked right to me.

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  • spencer
    How to make the square dowels in greene and greene furniture?
    12 months ago

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