Next year DJ Newman Joinery will be celebrating its 50th birthday. But whilst proud of this achievement, how does 50 years compare with existence of the skilled joiner?
Woodworking is as old as the hills – almost literally. There is clear evidence through Egyptian drawings that wooden chairs, tables, beds, chests and stools were being produced 4,000 years ago but other evidence shows that the Egyptians had developed advanced techniques such as veneering over 5,000 years ago. And, as every schoolchild knows, Noah and his sons were carpenters as, of course, was Jesus’s father, Joseph. But when did the term joiner – as opposed to carpenter – come into usage?
Who rolled the first joint?
The earliest use of a joint as opposed to nailing, lashing or gluing, certainly dates back to at least 3100 BC when the Egyptians were extensively using the mortice-and-tenon joint. But these were still the skills of the carpenter.
The term joiner (or ‘joyner’) didn’t come into use until the Middle Ages and appears to have been the consequence of the development of the frame-and-panel construction. This was used to make doors and panelling where the main panel of the structure ‘floats’ in the grooves made in the frame to allow the structure to move as it shrinks and swells with seasonal changes without distortion.
As it was easier to make these in a workshop rather than on site, the woodworking trade started to separate with ‘joyners’ fabricating products such as doors and panels within a workshop and carpenters working on site, generally on larger wooden items such as beams and trusses. Further, as woodworking machinery was developed, it became easier to make very accurate and complex joints in the workshop. This lead to the manufacturing of such items as windows, staircases and gates. By the 18th century, the woodworking trade had split into three principal crafts, those of the joiner, the carpenter and the cabinetmaker, each with its own apprenticeship scheme.
Here’s to the next 50 years!
So DJ Newman’s history when compared with that of the woodworker is insignificant. And not much better when measured against the existence of joinery itself. Nevertheless, approaching a half-century gives us a great sense of achievement!