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Cutting Mortise and Tenon Joints with Band, Hand and Table Saw
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Through cut mortise and tenon joint One of the most common and structurally sound joints in woodworking, mortise and tenons are easy to form and fit.

If there was ever a classic wood-to-wood joint, the mortise and tenon is it. With its two halves formed directly from the two members being joined (no separate components — dowels, biscuits, etc.), these joints form strong, reliable bonds for all manner of wood furniture and cabinet assemblies. Like the Chinese yin and yang, the two halves of a mortise and tenon (M&T) are male and female: The male tenon shaped on the end of one member (with shoulders stopping the cut) fits snugly into the female mortise chopped into the side or face of the other member. The joint can be cut with a saw and chisel by hand, or machined using any number of different stationary and/or portable power tools.

Cutting mortise and tenon joint with chisel and mallet The most time tested way of forming mortise and tenon joints is hand cutting them with a saw, then cutting away the waste with a mallet and chisel.

Mortise and tenons are most commonly used for frame joinery; M&Ts are a strong and traditional way to join stiles and rails end to edge to make frames for frame-and-panel doors or cabinet face frames. They’re also great for joining aprons or stretchers to the legs of a table, bench or chair, for both square and angled connections. Though less commonly used, M&Ts are also solid options for building strong casework, such as chests and the carcasses for desks and dressers.

Cutting tenon joint with a bandsaw Cutting out tenons on a bandsaw is one of the easiest methods of forming the joint, and requires very little waste removal.

Like the other joints we’ve so far examined in this Skill Builder series, there are lots of possible variations with mortise and tenon joints. Standard M&Ts are cut stopped or “blind,” meaning that the entire joint is hidden; through M&Ts are cut so that the end of the tenon shows or sticks out of the bottom of the mortised member.

Cutting tenons on a table saw Using a table saw to cut tenons is another easy tenon cutting method, and there are many helpful fence and jig combinations to get the cuts just right.

You can also add wedges, keys or pins to these joints, to add decoration and/or strength. Another option is to cut loose-tenon joints, where two mortised parts are joined by a separate long tenon piece.

posted on June 1, 2009 by Sandor Nagyszalanczy
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