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newbie question

1475 Views 17 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Dominick
sorry guys, but i'm completely new to this..........i don't know what to call the joint i'm going to ask about, nor do i have any idea about the kind of tools required to make it..........here goes.

i have access to old cedar fence posts, and have brainstormed some decorations for a man cave i am building. i would like to drill a hole (maybe 2 inch diameter) in one post and then somehow be able to make an end on the other post to stick into the 2 inch hole. i don't want it to be a tapered fit, but more like a piece of dowl on the end to stick into the hole.

i have no idea what kind of tool is available to make the end to fit into the hole so here i am.

ps....some of these posts i'm working on could be 6 or 8 ft long, so i don't think a lathe is the answer. besides, i can't afford a lathe long enough to do the job.

is there some kind of hand tool available that would kinda act like a giant pencil sharpener (but that would make an untapered dowl-like end) for insertion into the hole i have mentioned?
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You can use a plug cutter but I don't know if you could get one deep enough to be useful. You could use a standard set of chisels and saws and do a square mortise/tenon (the dowel-like part is a tenon the hole it goes into is a mortise.) What tools do you have currently?
well, i've got a small chain saw, a hand saw, a reciprocating saw, some hand drills, as well as a bunch of hammers, chisels, and a bunch of other stuff that i don't think would help. i also have some of those drill bits for cutting holes in doors. i wondered if i could use one of those on the very end of the post, then cut around the circumference to end up with a round end sticking out of the post.

if you are talking about cutting a hole right through the post, guess i could stick a chain saw through it to make a square hole, then cut the end of the other post square to stick into it.........but i'd rather have a round hole with a bottom in it, so it didn't stick out the other side. it would look nicer, i think.

the end result will hopefully look rustic...after all these fence posts are probably 75/100 years old. but i'd like to joints to be neat.
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You could try scaling up the pencil sharpener method dowel cutter from Woodgears.


Old school method would be a concave spokeshave.

Yes, you could do a mortise using hammer and chisels. Make it approximately half the thickness of the wood deep and you'll be plenty strong enough. Use the reciprocating saw, hand saw and chisels to make the tenon.

I wouldn't bother with anything else. They are easy to make (harder to make look really pretty, which helps with the strength too) and won't require any tools you don't already have.

If you make a fairly clean mortise and tenon (ie the edges mate well) you'll have made one of the strongest joints possible and it will still look quite nice. See attached image for a good example.


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how do you get the bottom of the hole cut out and square? maybe it doesn't matter if it's all chewed up, as it won't be seen anyway?
Sharpen your chisels well and you should be able to get a reasonably square bottom of the mortise. Or leave it a little ragged and no one will know, like you said.
the way they make those dowels is a heck of an idea........the only drawback is that to make the end of the post round, i'd have to figure out a way to spin the post!

while posting this, my brain kicked into gear with a thought. maybe a should get a piece of 2 inch dowel and drill holes in both posts. then all i'd have to do is stick the dowel in both holes and glue them together (wouldn't that work)
You would be better off to drill a hole in the end of the pole and one in the side of the pole it will go into, then use a large dowel or piece of wood closet rod. All you would need is the correct size drill bit.
bingo! thanks for excercising (sp) my mind.....sometimes the solution isn't complicated, if you discuss it with someone.

regards, gerry
while posting this, my brain kicked into gear with a thought. maybe a should get a piece of 2 inch dowel and drill holes in both posts. then all i'd have to do is stick the dowel in both holes and glue them together (wouldn't that work)
That would be the easiest way to do an end to end connection. You could use a 2" hole cutter, and just chisel out the waste after you drilled the depth. You would then have to find a 2" dowel that would fit that hole. For a straight alignment you would need to drill both 2" holes on center on the ends, and straight as heck into the posts.

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Sounds like you have a good solution. It's amazing how one idea spurs other ideas to arrive at a simple and effective solution. Btw, what you're planning is called a loose tenon. And it doesn't have to be round. Sometimes it's hard to find a dowel that is the exact dimension it purports to be, which could result in a sloppy joint if the mortise isn't the right size for the tenon.

I recently tried a floating tenon jig called the Beadlock jig and it worked really well. It only requires a hand drill to get tight fitting loose tenon joints. As a beginning woodworker, it was a perfect solution for my needs.
They make a cutter that makes it pretty simple. You can find it here.


But the first log railing I ever did was just done with a 1 1/2" inch hole saw and a spade bit. We just used a reciprocating saw to cut off the excess on the tenon. The hardest part of that is keeping things straight and square.

thank-u all for the input. it's really appreciated. the good part of this project (from my point of view) is that i'd like the finished project to look like an old fence.......straight/precise isn't too big an issue, but tight is important, as is looking good, with no fresh wood showing.
A slightly under size dowel and loose fit will be to your advantage. Your project is only decorative. A little slop in the fit will allow some fudge room when assembling and won't require your holes to be dead on. You still want to get them close as you can. Use some construction adhesive for your glue, like Liquid Nails, squirt it in the holes. Use enough but not so much you get too much squeeze out. It won't be going anywhere once set up.
does liquid nails stay a little flexible, or does is cure hard?
Very hard.
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