While choosing the right wood is a key step in woodworking, having the right tools and techniques to create quality woodworking joints is a must. It’s a common step to overlook in woodworking, but designing your projects to have the right joints will be the difference between a lasting piece you can use for decades. Or, a mistake you’ll need to fix (or redo) later. In this arcticle learn what wood joints are best for your project.
Woodworking joints are the difference between your project lasting for decades.
Or, twisting, warping or even breaking shortly after put in use.
And while professional woodworkers have the skills and know-how to use complex joints, entry-level woodworkers are often stuck with trial-and-error.
In this article we’ll help you:
- Decide which joint is best for your projects
- Tips on how to create the joints
- Tools you’ll need
- And a few manufactures of jigs that you’ll want to consider
Types of Woodworking Joints
As you know there are very few woodworking projects that don’t require designing, setting up for and executing a sturdy wood joint.
In fact, there is so much reliance on wood joinery that a whole series of tools and jigs have been made just to support them.
Why Wood Joining Techniques Matter
From cabinets to furniture the durability of your project comes down to a few key factors:
- Strength of the wood joints
- Durability of your cabinet hinges and drawer slides
- Quality of the wood finish
- And, lastly, having the right wood for the project to avoid warped wood
So what happens if you don’t have the right joinery? Well, joints that fail to stay secured initially (or in the long term) can cause re-work. Or, worst case, require the project to be re-built.
Wet Wood is No Good
If you participate in any woodworking forums or social groups you’ll know one of the most popular topics centers around warped wood.
And warped wood typically is due to “green” lumber that was not properly dried to the right moisture content. As such, before starting any project, you’ll need to make sure your wood project can accommodate wood to shift.
Or, my preference, is you’ll want wood that’s been through a kiln drying process.
Popular Types of Wood Joints
- 90-degree angle joints
- Mitered butt joint
- Half lap
- Rabbet joint
- Biscuit joint
- Loose tenons
- Mortise and tenon
- Tongue and groove
- Hidden dado
- Pocket hole
- Nail plates
- Finger joint
Related Article: Alternatives to Festool Domino Joints
Pocket Hole Wood Joinery
In almost every woodworking shop you’ll find one of the most popular woodworking joints: the ubiquitous pocket hole jig.
While nothing more than an angled screw, this style of woodworking joint creation is both fast and accurate. However, since the wood is only butted together it is not the most durable or strongest joint for all applications.
How a Pocket Hole Joint Works
- Clamps to either one or both pieces of wood
- Uses an angled drill guide with a depth control stop
- Drills a hole completely through the first piece of wood and stops at a controlled depth in the second
- Creates a recessed hole in the first piece of wood for the screw to countersink.
While the dado joint is an old joinery method, it is often overlooked by woodworkers as a simple yet strong method of locking wood together and helpingto transfer weight off screws and nails.
How a Dado Joint Works
First, there is nothing complex about a dado joint. Simply use a dado blade on your table saw (hence the name) or a plunge router with a guide and create a channel that is slightly wider than the wood that will be recessed into it.
There are a few tricks, however:
- Be sure to have the wood you’ll insert into the dado at its finished thickness and all sanding done. It is very easy to make your dado too wide and the result is a loose joint.
- Make sure to add the depth of the dado to the length of the inserted piece when determining width of the box. Or, you’ll have a narrow box that is equal to the combined depth of your dadoes.
Blind Dado Joint
Similar to the dado joint, the blind dado is created to be well, invisible on the face of the boards that will be seen. As you probably guessed, these joints are created like a dado, but the male side of the joint is trimmed while the female side of the joint (plumbing terms!) is stopped and then hand chiseled to be square.
Somewhere in every home there is a wood project that has been built using a simple rabbet joint. While often seen as a second-place construction technique to dovetail joints, this joint, when properly executed, creates a durable connection for 90-degree applications.
How a Rabbet Joint Works
A rabbet joint is similar to the dado but has only two surfaces – which means a rabbet joint is used on the corner of a drawer, shelfing unit or other box-like structure. To create this joint a dado blade, router or miter saw setup is most commonly used.
Finger Joint To Butt Joint Wood
This wood joint is relatively rare in day-to-day woodworking projects but is a fantastic butt-joint for wood pieces.
Chances are if you have an inexpensive table top, night stand or serving tray and you look at the solid wood surface you might pick out a finger joint. By design these joints create a massive increase in surface area for gluing, and when held side-to-side in a glued panel will create a durable joint.
How a Finger Joint Works
Almost all finger joints are created using a large router bit that is fixed into a router table and fed with a power feeder. Once your router is setup, the first step is to ensure both pieces of wood are the same thickness on the face of the joint. Then, using an alternating feeding pattern, simply pass the first face over the bit then using the (reversed) stock that it will mate to create the second half of the joint.
Joining Wood With Truss Plates
When it comes to butting together dimensional lumber to form complex shapes there isn’t a method that comes close to the popularity of this joint.
And what makes this method so appealing is the pure SPEED that a complex project like rafters can be completed using a simple hammer and (optionally) a few nails.
Along with mortise and tenon joints, few woodworking joints have been thru the test of time and survived with the durability AND variety of styles than the dovetail joint.
Dovetails work by forming a series of interlocking wood posts that, when properly cut and glued, form an extremely strong joint for 90-degree wood connections. This joint is so popular most homeowners who have purchased or remodeled a kitchen are “upsold” on this joint versus the lower quality rabbet or butt joint.
And lastly, dovetail joints have been around for centuries in Eastern styles through use of tools like a Japanese saw.
How a Dovetail Joint Works
With a wide variety of jigs available that range in size from compact drawers up to 24″-deep boxes the dovetail joint is readily made.
Basically, the classic through dovetail joint is created by laying the two wood pieces together at a jig-specified depth and offset. Then, using a router and special bit, the dovetails are created by making careful passes with the router.
An alternative joint, called the box joint, is very similar to the dovetail but is created most commonly with a dado blade on a table saw.
Mitered Butt Joint
You have almost certainly created this joint, and it is as simple as the name sounds: a mitered (typically) 90-degree joint created by simply butting two pieces of wood together and then gluing or pin nailing the face.
Butt Jointing Wood With Biscuits
In my opinion, no woodworker should be without a biscuit machine.
After assembling thousands of face frames, counters and butt-jointed plywood this simple tool offers an inexpensive way to:
- Make face frames for cabinets
- Glue-up butt joints in plywood
- Make counter tops
And, at a fraction of the cost of the more powerful Festool DOMINO joint the biscuit joiner won’t break your budget.
How a Biscuit Joint Works
When you first pick up a biscuit joiner you’ll notice it contains a miniature saw blade with a relatively thick kerf.
Combined with an adjustable height fence, a slidng plunge with depth stop for a variety of biscuit sized (o, 10 and 20 are popular) and an easy to control shaft design this machine acts like a miniature saw and removes a precision oval shaped section of wood.
While there are debates about a biscuit joiner vs. the Domino joiner (the Domino is better, BTW), for the cost and versatility in most projects you’ll find the biscuit joiner is easy to use and affordable.
Loose Tenon Wood Joints
Almost any serious woodworkers knows that the Festool DOMINO is one of the premier woodworking joints.
Categorized as a loose tenon joint, the DOMINO creates a fast, portable means of creating a mortise and tenon without having to take your workpiece to a fixed machine. Or, drill holes and chisel the mortise (a time consuming labor).
How it Works
First, DOMINO is the name of the machine from Festool and is available in two sizes:
- The 500 series for most standard furniture tasks
- And the 700 series for larger, deeper and thicker tenons
As a loose tenon device, the DOMINO uses a patented bit that plunges into both sides of the joint and creates an oval-shaped hole of a controlled depth. Differing from a classic mortise and tenon, both sides of the wood receive a mortise and then a loose tenon (made by Festool) is glued and inserted.
mortise and tenon wood joints
Perhaps one of the oldest styles of high strength, centuries durable wood joinery is the mortise and tenon joint. With a number of advantages ranging from hidden holding power to durability one of the classic joints for woodworkers to master is a mortise and tenon.
And, with popularity comes a variety of ways to make this joint:
- Mortise and tenon drill press machines
- Imitation mortise and tenon joints with the Festool DOMINO
- Table saw jigs
- And, of course, router jigs for mortise and tenon
Corner (Brace) Joints
Technically these are an add-on to a (preferrably) mortise and tenon joint, a corner joint is often created to help stabilize the joint used to hold two other 90-degree pieces of wood together..
For example, an average kitchen table is 72″ or more long. And, with four corner (detachable) legs there is room for wobble. By using a corner table joint the triangle-theory of stabilization is created that reduces sway.
How a Corner Table Joint Works
Unlike other woodworking joints that may require a saw, jig or specialty tool this add-on joint is created by simply creating a 45-degree back cut angle on a properly sized piece of (typically) hardwood.
Simply pre-drill holes with a pocket hole jig or brad point drill bit to prevent splitting and install.
Tongue and Groove Wood Joint
A close cousin to the mortise and tenon joint, but with the twist that it is only two sided, the tongue and groove joint creates a strong hold by locking the wood together. But, as it is only secured on two sides there is less diagonal holding force than a true mortise and tenon.
While tongue and groove joints are typically most popular in paneling, a similar joint is often used in cabinet door construction to create door stiles and rails.
Half Overlap Joinery
As you may know, a half lap joint is one of the oldest woodworking joints. But oddly, this woodworking is one that few modern woodworkers know about. Or, much less use.
However, when it comes to needing to extending the length of two boards this joint offers a few structural improvements versus a butt-joint:
- More surface area for glue
- Enhanced “lock” of the wood end grain for more strength
- And lastly, this joint resists separation during rotational force
While its tempting to go with whats easiest, in woodworking one of the ways to keep things fresh and quality high is to continue to experience with woodworking joints until you master (almost) all of the ones discussed.
Last update on 2021-09-19 at 07:54 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API