Sturdy Legtoapron Joint

Haunched tenon resists twisting and avoids splits at top of leg.

Square pins, rounded over to make dowels, provide a mechanical lock.

Haunched tenon resists twisting and avoids splits at top of leg.

Square pins, rounded over to make dowels, provide a mechanical lock.

Leopold Bench

Square the openings of the pin holes with a chisel.

Chisel the routed mortise square at the bottom.

Square the openings of the pin holes with a chisel.

Chisel the routed mortise square at the bottom.

Leave a small gap for glue between mitered tenons.

Leave a small gap for glue between mitered tenons.

TOP VIEW

TOP VIEW

Locate the tenon near the outside face of the apron to maximize its length.

Tenon should be a little more than one-third the thickness of the apron.

Leave the leg long and trim to size after mortising.

Offset the pin holes to avoid splitting the leg.

SIDE VIEW

Length of the tenon should be three to four times its thickness.

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Small shoulder at the bottom ensures a clean line at the joint.

added benefit of covering any baiised edges on the mortise that result from cutting the joint.

Centered tenons are ideal but not always practical—One engineering principle states that the stress on any part is least along the centerline or neutral axis. A centered mortise and tenon is strong because it leaves plenty of wood on both walls (sides) of the mortise and creates substantial shoulders on the tenons. But a centered mortise and tenon does not always work visually.

Deciding on the exact placement is a judgment call that varies with each project. The farther to the outside of the leg you position a mortise, the longer the respective tenon will be. Too far out, though, and the mortise wall will be more vulnerable to splitting under stress. To maximize the tenon length in such situations, I often design the joint so that the tenons meet inside the leg. I have butted tenons together, but doing so makes one tenon shorter than the other. I prefer to miter the tenons within the joint (see drawing, left). This is easy to do, and it can add 15% to 20% more glue surface and length to the tenons.

Haunched tenon stabilizes the top of the joint

A tenon the full height of the apron affords lots of glue surface and strength against bending and twisting forces. But there's a tradeoff: A full-height mortise weakens the leg, especially if there are two mortises at the corner of the leg, and serious stress on the apron can more easily split the top of the leg.

A simple solution is to shorten the tenon at the top by 3/4 in. to 1 in. or so and cut an angled haunch near the top shoulder. This design leaves material at the top of the mortise, which makes for a stronger joint.

I cut the haunch with a dovetail saw and then clean it up with a chisel (see photos, facing page). For speed and accuracy, I mark out the haunch on the tenon using a template. After cutting the mortise for the tenon, I use another angled template to guide the chisel as I cut the haunched area. Because I cut many of my mortises with a router bit, I keep the top of the mortise below the haunch round for a small measure of added strength. Also, a small Vs-in. shoulder at the bottom of the apron tenon will hide any small inaccuracies in cutting the mortise, and it allows for vertical alignment when the table is assembled.

Adjust the fit and use glue sparingly

The best design and the strongest glue won't overcome a joint with carelessly fit shoulders or a sloppy fit between tenon and mortise. Even when I cut these joints with accurate machine setups, I still often find it necessaiy to improve the fit with a few

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