Chinese woodworking is still evident until this time as seen on their
traditional furniture pieces and heritage sites. Most of the old western
buildings and architectural systems were erected with stones, which are
magnificent and still are existing today with the influence of Chinese
Chinese woodworkers were excellent at using wood and creating a complex structure of the notch and spike joint
to incorporate the unique aesthetics of ancient Chinese wood architecture.
It is so interesting learning ancient Chinese
woodworking, knowing how beautiful their temples and pagodas are. Let’s get a
deeper grasp of the Chinese woodworking without nails!
palaces, and pagodas in ancient China were beautifully and intricately built
with wood. The old structures were durable, energy-efficient, and
environment-friendly, but were easily destroyed by fire in history. Luckily,
there are still existing ancient Chinese gems of wooden architecture preserved
stilt-style wooden architecture founded on the Hemudu Site of the Neolithic Age is the oldest to date, with a history of more than 6000 years. The
mud and wooden walls of the Banpo Neolithic Village have a rich history for
5000 years. The fact is that many archaeologists found large-sized imperial
tombs and wooden palaces in Henan Province, which dates from 1400 BC to 1100 BC
during the Shang Dynasty.
years, the Chinese wood architecture still retains its magnificent and
prominent features. Of the 50 UNESCO heritage sites in China, most are cultural heritage
related to architecture.
Learning Ancient China’s Nailless Joinery
the climate in China, Korea, and Japan, why joints were complex in these
countries. The humidity and temperature changes throughout the south-east
and central Asia are huge. In fact, many European colonists discovered
furniture pieces because they were impressed with the woodworking of these
Asian countries. At first, the furniture pieces fell into pieces because the
animal glue that was used eventually softened due to heat and high humidity.
woodworkers of China and other Asian countries like Japan and Korea found that
they need to make interlocking joints with great mechanical strength instead of
only relying on glued joints. Oriental furniture pieces did not rely heavily
upon glue which is similar to the 18th-century Continental chairs tended to be
glued and pegged as opposed to British furniture pieces which were only glued.
One could probably argue that the furniture
pieces of the Continental stood up better to high humidity as compared to
It is important to keep in mind that the
entire assembly of a Chinese furniture piece highly depends on the interlocking
joints to ensure greater stability. In China, one of the roles of a furniture
restorer is to replace and tighten used dovetail wedges when the joints loosen. One of the techniques
include the top part without glue, while the legs are glued on, and the frame
is responsible for holding the top boards and the legs anchor the frame.
Finally, to anchor the entire lot together,
the dovetail wedges are utilized.
Chinese architects and Chinese woodworkers have used
mortise-and-tenon joints so pieces of wood are joined together. A
square-to-square or “peg" fitted into a “hole" or mortise, or “hole"
were some of the techniques used. It is crucial to carve the dimensions of the
tenon precisely yo mirror the mortise so the two will successfully fit
ultimate rule, screws, and nails have never been used in any stage of the
history has proven that the creation of furniture pieces with nails and screws
tend to wobble, unlike furniture pieces that were precisely joined using
mortise and tenon, wherein individually carved pieces fit quickly into one
architects and woodworkers used mortise-and-tenon joints for centuries to build
temples and houses. Many Chinese furniture makers used the same woodworking technique
in the construction of chair, tables, and cabinets to ensure that beautiful
furniture pieces were built to live for a lifetime.
We can say
that the mortise-and-tenon technique promotes superior sturdiness, strength,
and seamless wood joint construction. It’s an elegant and long-lasting solution
that’s why many woodworkers are still using this technique up to this today.
Before the Ming period in China, no term existed to describe an
object as a “furniture" because chairs, cabinets, tables, and beds were called
By becoming aware and knowledgeable of the
woodwork joinery, it promotes the Chinese hardwood furniture connoisseurship.
The techniques employed by Chinese woodworkers may seem an unusual approach for
a first-time learner but an aesthetically inclined observer will be astonished
integrated conceptualization because the joints are so connected, forming a
functional object. The techniques were conceived from ancient Asian
technological culture that developed through time and the evolution of
architectural systems. During the Ming and Quing dynasties, further refinement and sophistication were
reached along with hardwood furniture making.
Characteristics of Ancient Chinese Wooden Architecture
Did you know that Chinese wooden architecture
has five characteristics?
Here are the
five characteristics of the structure of Chinese wood architecture. Firstly,
wood is the primary material, and the formation of transverse beam columns,
wood was commonly used. The Dougong or the brackets inserted between the upper
column and the crossbar are crucial. Third, due to the limited size of the
wood, a single building cannot be as large and spacious as the stone or brick
building, so the traditional Chinese architectures are in groups like the Siheyuan courtyard dwellings.
design meets bilateral symmetry. Fifth, Chinese wood architectures are refined
with unique decorations and colors, like wood carving, stone carving, brick
carving, and enamel decoration. Old building techniques are attached to wood
without glue or nails
In the past,
wooden screws and tails were complicated, and
Japanese craftsmen utilized interlocking joints in a series for connecting
beams and wood structures. At present, there are many methods of interlocking
joints in carpentry, but in general, all require some type of additional
coupling. Wood glue is traditionally used to create sheet beams
and other connections, but with a perfect joint system, nothing else is needed.
interlocking system is activated by a wedge that is hammered into the open
grooves left in the wood by design. This method requires a lot of detailed work
of the wood, but when the tails or the screws are not an option, these unions
mention, the joining of the wood in this way creates a corresponding tension
in the beam and does not create possible flaws in the cutting planes that
may be present with other glue joining techniques.
like this would have been the traditional method used throughout Japanese
architecture at that time. This would have allowed them to create more
considerable stretches through ceilings and create taller structures without
the need for additional supports.
Construction techniques have evolved quite a
bit thanks to the modern industrial revolution, but there are still groups that
perpetuate the beautiful and ancient methods of construction.
Advantages of Woodwork Entirely in Wood
Most projects can be
easily disassembled for shipment or transport. Piece
all-wood gaskets and fasteners allow the wood to move with shrinkage and
seasonal expansion. The nails and screws hold the wood quickly, allowing a
small movement that eventually breaks the wood around the metal fastener. The
movement of the wood, the humidity and the deterioration of the glue eventually
loosen any glued wooden board.
correctly, projects made entirely of wood can last as long as wood, which can
be more than a thousand years. If you want to build
for your children and grandchildren and beyond, you can try using only wood joinery.
Video by more china – how to make chinese furniture without nails
of furniture without any screw, nail or fastener of any kind using glue,
mittens and wood joints. That’s why this kind of carpentry generally takes
longer. It has been abandoned by speed and volume. Although the construction of
furniture with these specific methods is not superior, it is recognized as the
mark of an artisan.
By using these old techniques, you can save on
the cost of fasteners and expensive power tools.
Miter joints are still universal and are used by many woodworkers to build
furniture. The strength of a miter joint lies in the exposed area of the glue
surface. The diagonal cut of hard solid wood or plywood through the grain is
usually the best for bonding glue.
commonly used to connect wooden furniture. The dowels are very strong and one
of the best carpentry joints which are used for braces, panels, legs, or any
type of furniture joint.
are appreciated for their deep penetration into the wood and for the fact
that they are invisible when installed correctly. Another benefit of building
furniture with dowels instead of screws is the fact that you can cut or drill a
furniture joint with dowels without damaging the blades or the bits.
joints of furniture are similar to the joints with pins. The grooves are long
instead of circular and long pegs with thin and flat hardwood or plywood. The
grooves run the entire length of a wood determined to align the panels or to
connect pieces of wood that must be joined side by side. The groove joints can be made with a router, or a table saw
with a cutting blade. The parts of the furniture have long coordination
channels on both sides.
Ancient Chinese woodworking without nails is very inspiring and impressive,
influencing the different cultures of the world. We are mesmerized with every
technique, passion, and time invested by hardworking Chinese woodworkers. It’s
no surprise why Chinese architecture influenced the world because of the
ancient Chinese magic of nailless woodworking.
The art of
Chinese nailless joinery has evolved over the years, and the techniques used
became more advanced and practical to cater different wood masterpieces. Now,
we are more aware and knowledgeable why nailless joinery was a major influence
in the world’s entire human civilization and practice of woodworking.