Think Beyond The Dominos

I received this question in episode 2 of the Ask Brian Boggs Show:

How do you feel about using something like Domino joinery in chairs. I was thinking to do my first chair project like this.

Okay. Domino seems to have taken over the world in joinery and I can’t speak to the quality of joints from that system. I have never used it and probably never will. The primary beef that I have, regardless of what method you use for floating tenons … And that’s what we’re talking about with Domino, you’re plunging a hole into a piece. There’s a way to plunge in another hole, and then you’ve got a tenon that joins the two. That can be a very good way to address a specific type of joinery. When we’ve got large enough pieces, and it’s always in casework or tables, where both parts coming together are large enough to house a tenon and still maintain enough structural integrity to serve the purpose of the piece. Then it’s an okay way to go.

My concern is that a lot of woodworkers who are building their design portfolio around that specific kind of joint solution. When you do that, you are going to be building bulkier pieces than you need to, especially if you are doing that with chairs.

With chairmaking, there is a much greater challenge than in casegoods to fully integrate the strength from a rail for example into a leg, and you cannot do that with a floating tenon. You can’t reach the same potential that we reach in our shop with that integration, but most of our joinery is double tenon joinery built on, and they have a unique locking taper to both the mortise and the tenons so that they come together with a strength that was not even possible in traditional joinery, so we’re working in a pretty sweet spot in terms of what we can do with joinery and so that certainly impacts my attitude toward a system like Domino. If that’s the way you’re starting, it’s going to be really hard to break away from that, because it’s quick and easy even though it does greatly limit what your designs can do and it will make them heavier.