Making the gussets – CNC Joinery Interlocking Furniture – You don't need a fancy CNC!

You don’t need a fancy CNC to attempt advanced projects. I’m just using a hobby CNC router with 3 axis, manual tool change, and no vacuum table.

Here I’m making the gussets which go along the legs and under the seat frames. These are more decorative in function than structural, but it does help a little to keep the legs from twisting. I used hand tools to square up the corners the CNC leaves and did some trimming for a perfect fit. This was designed with a tapered full lap joint so glue is not necessary. The parts are a little bit delicate, but once fitted into the leg slots and seat frames they are very strong together.

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Complete Fusion 360 Design File Downloads: This is released under Apache License. You are free to modify and distribute, but the license must remain intact and attributed to the original owner.
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This is part of the Ming Style Horseshoe-back 3 Piece Chair Set below. It’s made with about 90% CNC and the rest with manual machines and hand fitting.
Chinese Chairs in Ming Style Round Back Armrest with Interlocking Joinery (No Screws, No Glue) – 3 Piece Set in Dark Walnut –

About me: (Instagram: @acutabovefurniture)
I create made-to-order custom furniture. I prefer simple and elegant designs and work with flowing, organic, and pleasing lines. I take the extra time and effort to build furniture which will last for many generations.

Most of the wood I use are walnut, some curly maple, and a little bit of oak. I don’t use screws at all and stay away from glue whenever I can. If I have to use glue, I will use an organic glue like hyde glue which are heat reversible. And I will never glue cross-grained in any situation.

For finishing, I use an oil based blend of stains which I colorize according to needs. And then I use finishing wax for the final polish. For dinning and work table tops I will use a semi gloss poly finish for durability.

For joinery, I stay away from dominos, biscuits, and dowels. These are loose fitting and are meant for gluing. I prefer to use friction fitting mortise and tenons. There are many ingenious joints which are interlocking and will stay together without the use of any screws and glue. I did not invent these joints, they are passed down from Chinese, Japanese and Korean traditions. I’m simply rediscovering their ancient wisdom. Examples of many of these joints are on youtube and in books.

Woodworking is my hobby, I don’t make a profit from it. The price I charge covers buying raw materials, tools, and supplies. I don’t charge for my labor, as I enjoy the process of making things.

Why no screws and glue…?

The problem with screws is that they don’t expand and contract like wood does with changes in moisture level. Let’s consider a chair leg attached with two screws to the seat frame, which is a very common joining method. When this joint is stressed, the wood fibers push again the screws and are compressed a little bit. And with many repeated stress cycles, the screws make their holes bigger and bigger. Eventually, the screw loosens and then it finally strips. Thus ruining the furniture.

Let’s also consider a glued joint, such as when you glue a tenon into a mortise. This is crossed-grain gluing. The glue prevents the wood from moving against each other and causes tremendous sheering forces to build up as the wood fibers expand and contract, to the point that it can crack the wood. Modern glues are chemically similar to plastics. If you expose plastics to direct sunlight, they often become brittle and break down. So, over time, glue can become brittle and then the expansion and contraction of the wood fibers will easily break the glue bond and cause the joint to fall apart.

Screws and glues do have their benefits, they make furniture faster to build, which lowers the cost. However, to have furniture that will last as long as the wood itself, which can be many hundreds of years; the one way is to build them without glues or screws. It is time consuming to painstakingly hand-tuning the interlocking joinery to achieve the perfect friction fit. Yes, it is expensive but the true aficionado will appreciated the result.

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