Types of Joints and When to Use Them

Types of Joints and When to Use Them

Every woodworker must join pieces of stock together at some point or another. Even if you’re already working as an apprentice or under the guidance of a pro, you may not know the names of the most popular joints you’ll come across. Getting to know the different methods of joining wood and the strengths (and weaknesses) of those particular joints can further your journey to become an expert woodworker.

Butt Joints and Miter Joints

The butt joint is the simplest joint – it’s named because one piece of wood stock butts up against another and is affixed using nails, screws and sometimes glue. These joints are the go-to for simple 90-degree angles that don’t require being 100% precise or inherently strong. Butt joints are great for making frames, boxes or other square or rectangular projects that don’t bear too much weight.

The miter joint is a close cousin of the butt joint – it’s basically an angled butt joint. Each piece of stock is cut to a precise 45-degree angle. When glued together (nails are less commonly used), this joint produces a perfect 90-degree angle.

Biscuit Joints and Spline Joints

Biscuit joints and spline joints are reinforced versions of the simple butt joint. In a biscuit joint, you attach a biscuit – a circular piece of wood – in mortises on each piece of stock. Although the biscuit makes the butt joint stronger, the attachment of them makes the join imprecise. Thus, it’s not ideal for finished work that will show. Think drawers and recessed fittings.

Spline joints are reinforced with a piece of plywood or other material inserted along matching grooves or plows in each piece of stock. The spline reinforces the join and is a viable substitute for the tongue and groove joint. These joints can also be used as decorative accents using contrasting wood.

Tongue and Groove Joints

Tongue and groove joints are popular in the woodworking world for large projects – making a tabletop out of multiple pieces of stock or laying wood flooring. A channel is cut on one edge of one piece of stock to form the groove. On the matching piece of stock to be joined edge-to-edge, a tongue is cut. The tongue and groove allow the joint to fit snugly together. If you’re working on a piece or with materials that require you to factor in shrinkage, tongue and groove is the way to go.

Box Joints and Dovetail Joints

Box or finger joints are so named because they look like interlocking boxes or intertwined fingers. This popular joint creates a strong right angle and is commonly glued together. The edge forms a decorative join and is perfect for visible angles that require good structural integrity.

You might use a finger or box joint to make a jewelry box or other item where the edges can be seen. A dovetail joint is a close cousin of the box joint, but it requires more precision and accuracy as the intertwining pieces of stock that are pushed together to form the right angle are also angled or serrated, rather than square. The dovetail joint has more strength than the box joint and is the preferred choice for attaching drawer sides to fronts.

Some of the most popular types of woodworking joints are also the simplest. Whether you’ve been making them for years or are a complete woodworking newbie looking to further your craft, knowing the most basic and common woodworking joints can help you on the job.


  1. Norm Koerner12-14-2017

    Under what type of table saw to acquire it mentions the use of a “foot-switch”. Best way I know of to cut off a finger or cause other injury.

  2. Norm Koerner12-14-2017

    Under “Types of Joints”, the Lap-Joint should certainly be mentioned.

  3. Tevans02-21-2018

    I’m not a fan of butt joints. I detest the use of these joints even when it’s temporary. Having said all that, I do use Biscuit joints on occasion but I usually support these types of joints with wood or metal. My favorite is Dovetail joints because they are incredibly strong. Setting up to make dovetails can be a pain in the backside but worth the effort if a person has the funds to buy a router, bits and jig. Hand made Dovetails are beautiful and reflect the talents of the woodworker, however, I prefer the mechanized method because it’s much faster.

    • Ernst Cords07-16-2018

      Biscuit joints are stronger and easier to make. That’s my point of vieuw. I used to work as a cabinet maker in a former life and to my expiriense these joints are incredible strong. I even dare to say stronger then dovetail joints. But what are we talking about? It seems more a kind of an academical issue than a realistic question.
      In normal all day use I will prefer to use my lamelo machine. When I would like to make a statement and want show mij abbilities, dovetails might be my choice. However unnessecairy time-consuming.

Leave a Reply to Ernst Cords Click here to cancel reply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.