Friday, 8 September 2017

The Scapradekijn for the Muiderslot, part 5: Connecting the parts

This post continues with the story of the making of a hanging cupboard for Castle Muiderslot (Amsterdam Castle according to the Tourist Information) in the Netherlands. Part 1Part 2 and Part 3 considered the carving of most parts of the scapradekijn of the panels as well as the making of the shelves and back boards. Part 4 showed the metal parts of the cupboard. This post continues by fitting the different parts of the scapradekijn together.

Hidden dovetails

Most parts of the scapradekijn do fit nicely together with grooves, however the front edges of the cupboard cannot be fitted this way. When you look at the original piece in the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst in Cologne, it seems that the edges are just butted together with a lap joint and held by wooden pins. I tried this out on a test piece, but the construction proved not sturdy enough. So some other type of joint is necessary. The joint that does the trick, but has the same appearance, is the hidden (or secret) dovetail. If the hidden dovetail existed during the late medieval period is not known to me, the dovetail itself, however, is abundantly present in furniture pieces from that time. Also, some books on medieval and renaissance furniture show a modern example of the hidden dovetail, suggesting that this joint was known and used during this period.

The decorated edge of the cupboard from Cologne. The arrows point to the wooden dowels used. The edge joint is also reinforced by three metal strips, which are not present in the scapradekijn for the Muiderslot.

 Planing the rabbet with the Stanley 78.

As we also wanted a decoration on the edge of the scapradekijn, a rabbet was planed on the front panels using a Stanley 78 rabbet plane. Then the places for the dovetails were marked on the front and side panels. The dovetails were made large, so they were easier to cut with a chisel, as well as less prone to breaking. The dovetails were pre-cut using a router, and then finished with a chisel. Finally, the edges of the rabbet were rounded using a small block plane or the Veritas cornering tool.


Pencil marks for the dovetail sockets on a side panel.
 Precutting the dovetails. The clamps are used as well as stops for the router plane.

Some fined dovetails on the (side) panels. Note that the groove for the shelves extend into the dovetail socket.

  Two panels fitted together by the hidden dovetails.

Linseed oil

Before everything was fitted together, the separate parts were coated with linseed oil. A small brush was used to cover the carved parts in oil. It is much easier to use the linseed oil already on the separate parts, than later when the cupboard is finished, when it becomes more difficult to access the inside. At this stage we could add linseed oil to the grooves as well.

Left: all the oiled panels and shelves together. Right: Three shelves drying in the sun.

Fitting the parts together


Fitting the scapradekijn together first meant to make a lot of 4 mm thick wooden dowel pins. This was done with a Lee Nielsen dowel plate. Holes in the cupboard for the pins were drilled slightly smaller than 4 mm. The cupboard with the panels (except for the door panel), shelves and back panels were clamped together. First the sides were drilled and pinned, and then the left front panel. Pins were placed at the edges of the cupboard and at shelve height. The right front panel was then nailed (with pre-drilled holes) together with the hinge for the cupboard door. The backside still needed to be opened to be able to access the backside of the front panel with the door hinges, as the nails of the top hinge needed to be bend back into the wood. (They appear just below the top shelve, see Part 4). Finally, the pins of the front and sides were sawn of and smoothed with a chisel.

A still unconnected scapradekijn at castle Hernen. On the workbench in front the top decoration is worked at.
Clamps hold the pieces tight while the holes are drilled and the wooden dowels are hammered in. You can see the pre-drilled holes for the hinge on the top left.

Protruding pins from the front and side panels. the pins are placed at the shelf level and along the edge.

When the front and side panels were finished, the back panels could be pinned as well. Smaller, 3 mm dowels were set in the back panels at the grooves. Also here the protruding bits were sawn of and cleaned with a chisel.

Adding wooden dowels to the back side of the scapradekijn.

The hanging cupboard hanging in the woodworking shop with closed and open door.

The scapradekijn is now nearly finished. only the top decorated band has to be made and added. Part 6 will discuss this and conclude the scapradekijn series of blog post.

Sources used:

Blanc, M. 1999. Le mobilier francais – moyen age renaissance. Editeur massin, Paris, France. ISBN 2-7072-0346-7. 


  1. I apologize for coming late to read about the process of this modern copy of a medieval piece. I want to first compliment you on the quality of your explanations. The photo are information and beautiful.
    I don't know your motives nor considerations for how you go about building this piece. You clearly suggest yourself that the hidden were your idea and not likely used in the original construction methods. If you don't feel an obligation to limit yourself to medieval methods, then my comments are moot.
    I agree that your hidden dovetails will likely create a joint superior. I think however that the original workman despite the wooden pegs in place as seen today simply nailed together the butt joint. By eye, I can see that this piece has suffered repairs over the ages and the repairs also featured nails.I cannot say whether large headed nails might have been used originally; I would probably opt for a headless finish nail, which would certainly hold firm in the tight oak fibers and disappear into the groove of the bead.

  2. It's a minor point, but I, and others, I suspect, will have a much easier time reading your well researched weblog if the font were increased.