Slot Vs Square Mortise

Those of you who have been reading Woodsmith for awhile, have probably noticed that we've given quite a bit of coverage to the mortise and tenon. This all started in Woodsmith Number Eight when we presented a fairly wide overview of the mortise and tenon joint and how it's cut.

Since then we've tried to show a number of variations of the mortise and tenon and their applications. In almost every instance, we've shown this joint with a slot mortise. (A slot mortise has rounded ends, and the tenon is rounded to fit the mortise.)

In most cases I think this approach is easier than making a square-cornered mortise. Howrever, there are exceptions. In this issue we've given the step by step for cutting a square-cornered mortise by hand. (Although we do cheat a little bit by showing the use of a drill press to get rid of most of the waste before the cheeks of the mortise are pared square with a chisel.)

There are really two reasons we've switched to the square-cornered mortise this time. The most obvious reason is that the through mortise on the chair would simply not look right if the ends were rounded as with a slot mortise.

But the other reason is that we were working with oak. And this is a case of allowing the wood to tell you what type of joint is best. When working with oak, I find it's a real hassle trying to round over the tenons to fit a slot mortise. Oak tends to splinter and chip off too easily. So. in this case it's really much easier to chop the mortise square and leave the corners of the tenon square.

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