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 extend 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 jet fully understood or accepted are joints between like 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 our expectation.

I am not talking about joints in counter tops, 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 like which 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 seamless, the segments must be staged in the workshop.

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 solid lumber machining. Think of the huge amount of time which can be save by taking this attitude towards precision every component produced. The time saved by avoiding the still prevalent idea that “specials” need to be treated differently. The belief that such components need to be fitted in the shop and sizing cannot be relied on by generating precise material lists.

Educating designers

To be sure, often architects and designers may require such hidden joints for nostalgic reasons, or simple 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.

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