Map/Log & Rustic/
Whether it be the delicate lines of a Queen Ann highboy, the kitschy boldness of a Louis XV vanity, or the resolute proclamation of a log dining table... this is who I am. Our furniture choices reflect our interests. To be certain, some log or twig furniture pieces won't blend with every decor as few of us would place an Adirondack chair with a Chippendale kneehole desk, but in the right environment, rustic furniture cannot be surpassed.
Log and rustic furniture speaks to America's history when people fashioned their furniture from the raw materials nature provided. North American pioneers built log and twig furniture out of necessity during the migration to the west. This furnishing style is quixotic - and inspires thoughts as daring as that Westward expansion and as intimate as a memory of a ski or fishing trip in days gone by. Log furniture is bold - yet warm. It can be massive and graceful - yet it is a way to incorporate nature into our homes. The answers to "why log and rustic furniture being popular" are as varied as the craftsman who produce rustic furniture. Simplicity, elegance, boldness, history, natural beauty...
As it relates to log furniture (rounds), you generally find two varieties, peeled (clean shaven) and skip-peeled. A peeled log has had all the outer and inner bark removed. What remains is a cleanly shaved piece with traces of the drawknife's flat trail.
A perfectly round log indicates that the piece was machined on a lathe. Skip-peeling leaves traces of the inner bark producing a mottled (more rustic looking) effect. There is no right or wrong method of peeling logs for furniture, the result is only a matter of individual taste. (Sap peeling relates to green wood where the bark is peeled off while still green).
Wood choices are usually influenced by geography, but furniture makers tend to use the woods that are native to their area. Generally speaking, log furniture refers to the family of pine, which includes about 35 species found in North America. However, you will find log furniture made from hickory, oak and other woods.
Cracks or checks that appear in dry wood are a natural occurrence and do not impact the strength or durability of the piece. Oftentimes these "imperfections", along with diseased areas and burl are positioned to add character to a piece of furniture. As an example, the image at right shows cleanly peeled or machined legs with diseased areas called "cat's eyes" exploited as a prominent feature of the table.
Most furniture builders obtain their wood through a variety of sources. You will notice that many websites boast that their furniture is produced using "standing dead" or fire damaged trees. Few builders cut living trees for raw materials, as there is an ample supply of dead or fire-damaged trees in most forested areas of the country. One of the exceptions to this are the craftsmen who fashion willow (or twig) furniture. This is because the willow plant will grow new shoots from the stump when trees are harvested.
Trees grow as spherical objects. Wood is strongest in its natural, rounded form - a log. Log furniture capitalizes on woods strength while exposing it's exceptional natural beauty.
While a log is perfect as a structural member (legs and stiles, etc.) it's a tad difficult to balance a dinner plate and glassware on a log. Hence, we saw logs into planks, plane them square and join them together to form table tops, shelves and other flat surfaces. Bonding these pieces together is called joinery. Joinery involves much more than just gluing boards together.
Most log furniture makers pride themselves on using old-world methods of joinery. That is, using dowels and biscuits embedded in the boards to add strength to the glue joint and help keep the boards aligned vs. metal screws or guides. This examples shows two boards which have been cut exposing a biscuit. If done properly, a glued joint is usually stronger than the rest of the board (note how the boards unusual grain pattern was matched to avoid the appearance of a joint).
The most common visible joint in log furniture is the mortise and tenon, basically an opening (mortise) that accommodates a shaft (tenon). The joint needs to be a snug fit, if it is too tight, it can split the wood and if too loose the joint will be weak and wear over time. We have all sat on wobbly chairs with weakening joints.
There are many variations of this joint. A blind mortise where the hole stops prior to being exposed and a through joint where the tenon extends through the piece. Sometimes you will see this where the tenon has been cut to accept a wedge that is inserted to snug the tenon fully. Glue and hidden dowels (or even screws) are sometimes added to reinforce the joint. To learn more about various mortise and tenon joints, visit Mortise and Tenon.net.
See a DIY project that incorporates many of the things discussed on this page. A log and slab china closet made from Ponderosa blue pine. See all the steps involved in creating this rustic log china closet.
Unlike most other furniture manufacturers, log craftsmen often rely on hand tools more than machines. The drawknife and spokeshave are essential tools of log craftsmen used to peel the logs and also make the tenons. However, automated tenon makers such as that pictured at right, act like a pencil sharpener and cut the tenon as the work piece is pushed into it. They fit on the end of a power drill or hand-held brace. Handsaws, chisels, hatchets and other hand tools are found in every log furniture crafter's toolbox.
Build Your Own Log Furniture,
a book that answers all the questions
TreeHelp.com helpful and informative source for all your tree questions
Rockler Log Tenon Maker
Veritas tenon cutters (we use these and highly recommend)
How to make a
log picture frame.
"How To" build your own rustic furniture.
DIY log and slab china closet
Mortise and tenon information.
Rustic Articles by experienced industry professionals
Press Releases from companies listed in this directory.
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