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I love examining at old furniture. I enjoy looking at the joinery used by the craftsman who built it and see how well it has lasted over the years. After all, since it lasted this long, the piece of furniture must have been made well. However, sometimes I see failures in furniture that I can learn from and not make the same mistakes.

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I came across this secretary in an antique store in Milford, OH this weekend. It’s a beautiful secretary that I believe is made out of cherry. When I examined the top, I noticed it had a bread board edge that I had never seen before.

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The craftsman who built the top inserted the edge of bread board into the slant top board by forty-fiving the end board into it. The whole point of making a bread board edge is to prevent the top from warping. However, it’s critical that you make sure that the top can expand and contract with changes in humidity during the summer and winter months.

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While it took incredible craftsmanship to accurately cut the joint into the top, three of the four corners where the joints meet, cracked because there was no room for the wood to move.

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The only reason I can guess why the craftsman built the top the way he did is he either he didn’t want end grain to show on the top’s edge, or he didn’t want to make mortise and tenon joinery for the bread board edge. I think it would have been rather ironic if he chose the latter because creating a 45 degree joint that fits perfectly into the top’s cavity seems a lot harder than making a mortise and tenon joint and then pinning it tight with pegs.