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I'd like to point out that one can also have the opposite experience. Accuracy in woodworking is INSANE! How does anyone get anything accurate when working with wood! For example, the simple act of making a finger joint jig. It's just not possible! ...Or is it?
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Nakashima twice. The first was in the mid-70's during an exhibition of his work at IIT's Crown Hall. I asked him his opinion of Wright's work; it hadn't changed. The second was in his studio in New Hope while ordering some of his furniture. A very pleasant 30 minutes or so. I have the sketches he did that day and, of course, still enjoy the furniture daily. By that time most of the pieces were produced by craftsmen under his direction and they are all quite accurate as far as I can tell. They've also held up well through many moves and 30+ years.
Correction: I had forgotten that I spoke to him a third time. I called to make an appointment to discuss ordering some furniture and was quite surprised when Mr. Nakashima answered the phone himself. Not unlike the experience of many Wright clients. After the date and time were set, I asked if he could recommend nearby lodging. He suggested the 1740 House Inn, on the west bank of the nearby Delaware River. A google search indicates they're still there.
I want to go to New Hope and visit the studio. I really like what I've seen of the buildings. ... I think there is a Breuer house in New Hope too.
The word "milling," in turn, raises the question of method. Tom may be thinking of hand-craft when he bemoans the difficulties of working wood, but there is an alternative, namely machining of joinery. The mechanic (all of us who use tools to work material are "mechanics") can apply some of the discipline and technique of the machinist (metal-worker), with gratifying results.
David Pye usefully addresses the subject of method in his writings; he coins the terms "workmanship of certainty" and "workmanship of risk" to define the distinction between mechanized work and handcraft. A recommended volume:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Nature-Art-Wo ... 0521293561
Joints produced with relative ease on the table saw, arguably stronger than the typical finger, dovetail, or mortise-and-tenon connections:
I think many Wrightians see his work as being unusually appropriate for placement in Wright's later houses -- despite the fact that Wright himself would never have designed as Nakashima did.
It turns out the Sweetons saw and admired Nakashima's work in New Hope, and bought a chair with an "arm desk" in the mid '60's, it shows up in some period pics. Their daughter still has the piece.
Gorgeous wood by the way and impeccably surfaced. Would you mind letting me know what species we're looking at here.
I've seen photos of the Coonley Playhouse extensively furnished with Nakashima pieces.
To my eye they seem more appropriate in the Usonian houses.
Tom, the Pye book isn't a woodworker's manual by any means. I don't read a lot of books of that type, so I can't recommend one to you. Where I have read of a method of achieving accuracy, the mechanic has usually devised his own technique or device. Many of us are essentially self-taught, relying on previous experience, and inventing as necessary based on a new problem.
One method of making finger joints relies on a pin or bar which fits the first notch cut, so the second is a fixed distance from the first. It is easy to see that this method could, with almost any degree of variation or accidental movement of the workpiece, introduce random error which could accumulate, so that after a number of cuts the "comb" becomes a unique object, never able to fit with the next notched piece produced by this method.
A better method would be to select a unit dimension for your pins and notches -- say, 1/2" -- and use a dado set shimmed to just a hair over that dimension. Then, use the scale on your table saw fence rail to move the fence precisely an inch for each successive cut. And, to save time and effort, clamp all four box sides into a single block (with a sacrificial back-up piece), and move them together over the blade, keeping the block square to the fence with the miter gauge or a similar device.
I see lots of Baltic-birch type ply with finger joints; to my mind this is a questionable material choice, as the many little tabs of veneer are just asking to disintegrate while the piece is being cut, or assembled. The surface grain of the ply should always run perpendicular to the finger-jointed edge, of course, as a first defense against this damage.
I'll try your alternate method once I read through it several times in order to understand. Thank you.