mortise & tenon joinery - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 06-21-2016, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
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mortise & tenon joinery

for a thousand years I've been doing half-lap joints.

I like them because doing first the cheek cut, then using a router with sub-mm adjusting ability, I can get the joints to fit super tight. glue&clamp and that joint ain't never going nowhere. either "through" version or "blind" - I have become not unskilled in jigging up the router to make blind pockets.... add a sharp chisel, little nibbling on the length, patience can produce a very clean tight joint....given enough test pieces (g)

so, starting out on a two desk + 3 sideboard + computer rack + bookcase suite of "office furniture" - and based on some recent posts - got to wondering if I should leap off the mortise&tenon cliff.

what I don't like about m&t is the glue gooing out of everywhere during assembly. makes for finishing nightmares. miss scrubbing down a spot while still wet and the finish is toasted. and, since the joint has to slide together vs flush-fit-clamp, I'm a little woozy about 'zactly how tight the joint may be. yes, I know....history proves me a nutcase - there be billions of m&t out there....it's not unproven technology . . .

what advantages might mortise & tenon bring to the party? sounds silly, but really,,, am I missing something past the obvious of "no visible seams" in furniture construction?

these builds are going to be red oak; no stain; poly finish.
I'm buying rough saw lumber; so I can plane&finish to any dimension my heart desires...
I have a floor model 15.5 inch drill press.
are drill press attachments a viable quality alternative to dedicated machines?

this is a hobby project/shop - so I have minimal need for speed/productivity...
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post #2 of 12 Old 06-21-2016, 12:55 PM
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Wow ... a thousand years of history with half-lap joints is really hard to argue with. But remember, "In the end, there can only be one!"

Sorry, I just had to say that. I have no authoritative opinion on the joints in question. I do wonder why, if you like one joint so much, and it's been successfully working for you, why bother going to a different type that may offer nothing except a reason to buy more tools?


Oooohhhh ... buying more tools !!!!
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post #3 of 12 Old 06-21-2016, 02:16 PM
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If you don't like glue oozing out of mortise & tenon then don't use glue at all. Use tight fitting with dowels.

Keep thy axe sharp.
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post #4 of 12 Old 06-23-2016, 06:28 PM
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If your problem with the glue is that it messes with the finish, try liquid hide glue.

As to advantages to M&T... it'll give strength in different directions, and tusk tenons or drawbored tenons add significant strength against the joint pulling loose.
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post #5 of 12 Old 06-24-2016, 09:12 AM
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MT joints are my favorite for most of my joinery. Go ahead and practice. Once you get the hang of them they will be easy and fast to construct. If you are concerned about glue squeeze out (and you should have a little because if you don't, your mt is starving for more glue), apply some bees wax around the joint. The wax will not allow the glue to stick and can be easily cleaned up with mineral spirit. Just be careful not to get the wax into the joint or your glue will be useless. As for glue under the shoulder - no problem because glue on end grain doesn't stick.

How tight should you make the joint - it takes a little practice but worth learning how to do it. The joint should fit and be taken apart without the use of tools. They should fit and be taken apart by hand using a little force and the joint should hold with no glue.

Here are a few tricks I've learned... Too center the joint, I use a drill centering jig - then I hog out the mortise with a router centering jig. You can leave the mortise round on the ends and still have a strong joint but I square mine off with a sharp chisel.

As for the tenon, they are not difficult. I cut mine a bit thick and shave them down with a chisel and final step is honing them down to a perfect fit with a file.
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Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #6 of 12 Old 06-24-2016, 09:21 AM
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Using a half lap or M&T shouldn't be a this or that question. Each has their advantages and benefits, and where a half lap can't be used a M&T joint usually can. Want to join a narrow board to the center of a wider board? M&T. Making a simple corner from two boards of equal thickness? Half lap.

4D
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post #7 of 12 Old 06-24-2016, 09:21 AM
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I should add that I always cut my mortise 1st followed by the tenon. It's easier to fit by removing extra wood from the tenon then adding wood to a mortise. Off course there are different types of MT joints. The one pictured above is a bridle joint. Here is the traditional mortise being squared off with a chisel.
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Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #8 of 12 Old 06-26-2016, 08:23 AM Thread Starter
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thanks all - 4D methinks hit it square - there are situations where M&T is the only option - and M&T is an option elsewhere.

to this point my projects haven't 'required' it - so I'll putter on....
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post #9 of 12 Old 06-27-2016, 12:29 AM
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If things are working for you... great! Allow me a piece of advise I give to all new woodworkers... don't throw out your scraps (aka cut offs). Use them to practice new and untried joinery.

Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #10 of 12 Old 06-27-2016, 09:22 AM Thread Starter
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Bernie -
can you elaborate a bit on your router set-up for mortising?

is a 'special' bit needed / beneficial?
now and then I've used the router for a deep dado - I find I needed to do multiple shallow cuts/passes to avoid it climbing off course. now-a-days I prefer to remove most of the dado stock with a rip cut on the table saw, then make fine cut 'final size' passes with the router.
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post #11 of 12 Old 06-27-2016, 07:45 PM
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Tom - as for router bits, any straight bit can do the job but I prefer up cut bits. They are the same dimensions as straight bits, but they pull the chips up out of the cut as they work. Multiple passes are still a requirement but they do a nice job. I do lots of mortises so I invested in a good Freud set of up cuts with varying sizes from 5/16 through 3/4 I think. Nice thing about doing mortises and dado with router bits is the width of the cut is the same as your bit size and bottoms are clean.

Now for the jig, it realy is a simple jig. Look at the 1st picture. My plate is see through but you can make one from plywood or any stable flat stock. Cut a whole in the center for the bit and a couple of slots for the bolts to slide and adjust your bottom guides. I'm not the best at computers, but here is a link if I do it right.

http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2014/12/router-mortise-jig/

Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #12 of 12 Old 06-28-2016, 07:00 AM Thread Starter
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ah - much more clear now with that explanation. thanks!

the up-cut bits are new to me - another good tip. from the very minor amount of 'similar' stuff I've done, I can see their advantage.
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