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My First Rocker #3: Tenons or mortises first

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 03-20-2009 03:25 AM 1885 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: leg laminations Part 3 of My First Rocker series Part 4: Make the rocker template »

I’ve always been a mortise first kind of gal. But this rocker project has got me thinking that I may need to do the tenons first.

Before I start that topic. I have to show the only pictures I have for tonight. (Might as well bore you now after all – or build up the suspense – one or the other).

Anyway – here are the leg laminations. They came out really well. Zero gaps/voids on the edges and the glue line is almost not there at all.

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This is the pile of lumber I have for the other parts (minus the seat slats which I’m working on gluing up).

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I need to sticker these and let them sit a bit to make sure I don’t get any wonky pieces. I’ve also have some scrap for test pieces on this pile.

OK – now back to the tenon/mortise first issue. Here’s my thought – tell me what you think.

The seat rails and the back rails have two tenons on each end. Here’s a picture of the rocker.

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Each rail is 3” wide and has 3/4” tenons. I’m planning on making a hardboard template for the mortises on each leg. The article tells me to make the rails and tenons first then fit the mortises to match the rails. Having always been a mortise first gal, I’m wondering if I would be crazy to do mortises first just because I always have – or follow the directions to the letter. I’m just thinking the tenon first thing really would be easier for this particular project because trying to trim two tenons to fit a mortise might try my patience and get frustrating. One flat tenon is not so bad but two round tenons makes me pause a bit.

So guys – do you agree or disagree that I should remake myself, at least for this project, into a tenons first gal? Or should I go into my “I’ve always done it that way and that’s the way I’m going to do it” mode?

As always, I appreciate your thoughts. (Now back to my cabinet for a little bit).

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine



9 comments so far

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

939 posts in 2858 days


#1 posted 03-20-2009 04:17 AM

The article way seems a bit non-sense to me…... your way is more straight fordward. The hardboard template is a great idea, so I would start with the legs and mortises. it’s easier to replace one of those rails in case of mistakes than a leg piece. What a beautiful rocker!

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View lew's profile

lew

11340 posts in 3220 days


#2 posted 03-20-2009 04:33 AM

Betsy,

I think in this case, making the tenon first will be easier.

Typical tenons are a a single piece (tenon) and fit into a single hole (mortise). The tenon shoulder can cover slight variations across the mortise length and never show. Here, the tenons are in two parts and there appears to be very little “wiggle” room. I thinks the chance of error will be less by creating the rail tenons and then using them to mark the mortise locations. Cut the mortise undersize and work it to fit.

Just my thoughts.

Lew

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View jcame's profile

jcame

72 posts in 3041 days


#3 posted 03-20-2009 03:47 PM

I always like to cut the mortices first, ALWAYS!!! This way I can refine the fit of my tenon with my shoulder plane. This makes for a simple process. JMO, Good luck!!

-- Jed,Ala,jmwoodworks057.com

View Beginningwoodworker's profile

Beginningwoodworker

13347 posts in 3138 days


#4 posted 03-20-2009 03:48 PM

I was taught to make the tenon first.

View Hacksaw's profile

Hacksaw

185 posts in 2841 days


#5 posted 03-21-2009 05:21 AM

Mortise first. Fit the tenon to the hole.

-- Nothing's impossible...it just gets expensive

View Betsy's profile

Betsy

3338 posts in 3361 days


#6 posted 03-21-2009 07:54 AM

Thanks for the thoughts guys. I’m starting toward leaning to doing the mortises first. My thoughts are that 1) if I screw up a rail – it’s a lot easier to replace than a laminate leg; 2) Even though there are two round tenons I can still nibble off a little at a time to fit the mortise.

The good thing here is I have a lot of time to consider how to go. I am about as slow as molasses to get anything done – I’ll probably experiment with both on scrap and see which works better.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View jcame's profile

jcame

72 posts in 3041 days


#7 posted 03-23-2009 12:44 PM

I refine mine round tenons with a rasp or chisel, just to let you know. Its very easy to “sneak” up on the fit this way. Good luck!!!!!

-- Jed,Ala,jmwoodworks057.com

View Betsy's profile

Betsy

3338 posts in 3361 days


#8 posted 03-24-2009 03:54 AM

Thanks Jed. I think there’s going to be some trial and error in my future!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Beginningwoodworker's profile

Beginningwoodworker

13347 posts in 3138 days


#9 posted 04-06-2009 12:18 AM

Nice pictures, Betsy.

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