Class On Kevin Rodel's Side Chair #8: The Floating Tenons

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Blog entry by Grampa_Doodie posted 02-27-2013 07:55 PM 7358 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Lower Stretchers Part 8 of Class On Kevin Rodel's Side Chair series Part 9: The Final Assembly. »

The Floating Tenons

Note: When I talk about the many parts of this chair, I name them as if I were sitting in the chair.

As you’ve most likely noticed by now, I opted to go with “rounded over” mortise and tenon joinery as opposed to Mr. Rodel’s “squared” mortise and tenon joinery. The only reason I went this route was because I wanted to put my new Leigh Mortise and Tenon Jig to good use.

I also decided to have “floating” tenons at all four corners the chair. The tenons that will eventually be part of the structural bond between the two front legs, the two rear legs, and the front, rear, and two side stretchers.

Seeing that all tenons would be buried and unseen forever, my first move would be to pick out a bunch of scrap cherry pieces for the parts.

It’s hard to tell from the photo below, but most of these pieces have at least one flaw…if not many flaws. So they’re perfect candidates for becoming my future floating tenons.

My Leigh Mortise and Tenon Jig did a really nice job of keeping all of my mortises to their proper length of 2 inches.

Once I had all cherry strips ripped close to their final 2 inches wide, it was off to the surface sander to bring them down to just barely under 2 inches in width. This would give me just the right amount of room to slip the floating tenons into the mortises.

Note: Of course you can certainly rip your tenon stock down to just under 2 inches on the table saw and call it a day, but I like to use all of my shop’s tools from time to time just to keep them limber. :)

A couple more passes, and we’ll have them down to a hair under 2 inches wide.

I ran all of my tenon stock through my surface planer to bring them “close” to their final thickness. Once I have the edges rounded over, I would then test fit them to get them down to their very final dimensions.

So it’s off to the router table. A 1/4 inch round-over bit will create the rounded edges just fine.

I must admit that the widths of my mortises ended up with varying dimensions. Some were a perfect 1/2 inch, others were a bit larger, and some were a bit smaller. I wish I could have blamed this on the jig, my router, the router bit, the sun was in my eyes, the cat just bit me…but I cannot.

As we say in the tech support field, it was PEBCAK. (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.)

(I obviously should have chalked up many more hours at mortise and tenon making before trying to hone my skills during my chair building days.)

So this is where those three famous words consistency, consistency, consistency come into play most critically…at least during my chair building process. It really came back to bite me this time. Lots of wasted hours trying to fit inconsistently shaped tenons into inconsistently created mortises.

In a perfect world all of my tenons would have/should have slid into each of my mortises with that ultimate friction fit during the final assembly stages. But they did not. So I found that by leaving my tenon sticks long, testing their fit, and then sanding them with my palm sander to their final shape..they would eventually get to the point where they would fit nicely. It was at that point that I would chop them down to their final length.

Way too much work!!

In the next photo you’ll see that I had to create some of my tenon sticks thicker (or thinner) than others. I also made a couple test tenons out of MDF. Sorry…can’t remember why. :)

Once I had all of my tenons sticks chopped down to their final dimensions, I added a small chamfer to the ends. This not only made them slip into and out of the mortises a little easier during “test fitting” time, but it also left just a little more room for glue.

Another optical illusion…thankfully, I still do have all of my fingers. :)

Seeing that a lot of my chair parts were not consistent, it was fairly important for me to mark every single part. So all parts marked with an “A” ended up being a part that went into my “A” chair. If a tenon was created to properly fit into a “B” chair, then it too got marked with a corresponding letter.

You can’t see it in this final photo below, but I would also mark each floating tenon with a RF, LF, RR, and LR.

This assured me that my “inconsistent” pile of floating tenons would end up at the right front, left front, right rear, or left rear in relation to where their final home may be.

A very critical step when it comes time to glue all parts together.

See you at the next chapter…

Dale “Gramps” Peterson.

-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

5 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


5816 posts in 3051 days

#1 posted 02-27-2013 09:20 PM

Looks good Dale. You have us hooked for the next episode!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View SPalm's profile


5325 posts in 4120 days

#2 posted 02-27-2013 09:22 PM

Glue fills gaps, and wood shrinks and swells. I am sure that it will be fine. (If not already done…)
Funny though, on that even with all the fancy tools that we have, that there is still inconsistencies.

Good work Sir,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Grampa_Doodie's profile


158 posts in 2536 days

#3 posted 02-27-2013 09:26 PM

Thanks Willie.

Steve, they did turn out just fine after all. You’re right…plenty of room for glue and expansion makes things just fine. I ended up with extremely tight joints. Very happy.

Stay tuned…Final Assembly is up next. And then the final chapter, Seat Base and Corner Braces.


-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

View Ken90712's profile


17614 posts in 3426 days

#4 posted 03-23-2013 01:20 PM

Well done, Looking good.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View jehu's profile


10 posts in 1912 days

#5 posted 10-25-2013 06:06 PM

Hello, New kid on the block here. Just what I was looking for help on tenons. Straight ahead Dud

-- jehu

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