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How many times have we used this to razz the new guy? The concept is not a new one. I recall being a new boy scout in Troop 6 Berkeley, camping with the guys running to each patrol chasing down the “Left-Handed Smoke Shifter”. Eventually, someone made one and that very well be how the Scarf Joint was invented.
Back in the day trees were only so long so if you needed a longer timber you were screwed. The answer was found by doing some crafty joinery. I was fortunate enough to spot one recently on a circa 1884 building in the attic of the Bear Lake County Court House in Paris Idaho. It’s a long story, I could tell you, but… I also saw one recently on a trip to Boston on the USS Constitution.
What’s A Scarf Joint?
A scarf joint was the answer to joining two boards at the ends to make one long board. This joint has been working now for over 133 years. the bolts were likely added much later a suspenders and belt solution. Present-day scarf joints are used for decoration or for making repairs.
I made something far less complicated when an end of a railing baluster broke off. Rather than replace it a scarf joint was used to essentially replace the fractured part stronger than new IMHO.
No need for a scarf Joint these days
Today we would just get some engineered lumber or a glulam beam as long as we need. Japanese master woodworkers are no strangers to this art and have some amazing examples of joinery that is still used today.
Levco uses mortise joints and lock miters regularly. I just recently graduated from biscuits to a Festool Dominoe and love the precision of the tool. I also use the Kreig system to join wood too. I am happy to have participated in the progression.
Secure joinery is an art form, I see dovetails on box cabinets less now than I used to. I use Dovetails joinery on decorative boxes that I make for fun.
Joints and Construction
Some would argue that a good joint is a part of the recipe for the creativity needed to be a great carpenter. I am not one to argue the point. Having some in your back pocket is just how we solve problems and make beautiful things that last.
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