Fitting The Tenon To The Mortise

Template simplifies layout. Mark out the angled haunch on the tenon using a template.

Tenons on the tablesaw. With the workpiece firmly clamped against Handwork is fast and accurate enough. A dovetail saw makes quick work this tenoning jig, the tablesaw can cut tenons cleanly and accurately. of trimming the angled haunch and mitering the ends of the tenons.

Pins are an insurance policy. Small hardwood pins will hold the joint tightly, even if the glue fails. Hack leaves the outside end of the pin square and holds it with a wrench as he hammers it home.

Template simplifies layout. Mark out the angled haunch on the tenon using a template.

Tenons on the tablesaw. With the workpiece firmly clamped against Handwork is fast and accurate enough. A dovetail saw makes quick work this tenoning jig, the tablesaw can cut tenons cleanly and accurately. of trimming the angled haunch and mitering the ends of the tenons.

passes of a shoulder plane or a chisel. I want the shoulders to fit tightly over their entire surface and the tenon to slide into place with a minimum of force for a good glue bond.

Part of the long-term strength of the joint is the snugness of the fit, or what I call its mechanical strength. Glue adds strength, but how long does a glue bond last? By its very nature, a mortise-and-tenon joint has wood fibers running cross-grain to one another, which weakens the bond. Flexible modern glues can accommodate some of this movement.

Before gluing, I always dry-fit and clamp the parts together to discover any problems that may arise while there's still time to solve them. To ease assembly, I chamfer the ends of each tenon. Glue-ups can be stressful, but it is worth taking care to place the glue so as to avoid drips and oozing joints that would be a headache to clean up later. With a thin stick about half the width of an ice-cream stick, I apply a light amount of glue into the mortise and on both tenon cheeks. The flat edge of the stick is perfect to squeeze out the glue in a thin, even layer. Another trick that works well is to cut a light chamfer around the mortise to contain any squeeze-out. Ideally, the joint should slip together under light clamping pressure.

For large tables and for peace of mind, I often pin the leg-to-apron joints. I use a hard, straight-grained wood such as rosewood, ebony, or maple for the pins. A contrasting wood can add a pleasing visual detail, and two small pins are stronger than one large one. Most often, I drill holes for the pins after gluing and drive them in either from the outside or inside of the leg, depending on whether or not I want them to show. □

A woodworking teacher and professional furniture maker, Garrett Hack is a contributing editor to Fine Woodworking.

Pins are an insurance policy. Small hardwood pins will hold the joint tightly, even if the glue fails. Hack leaves the outside end of the pin square and holds it with a wrench as he hammers it home.

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