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An easy method to cut mortise and tenon joints for a bench

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Blog entry by HalDougherty posted 06-11-2011 01:05 AM 5265 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I made a bench for a gift, but it was just too rustic looking. So, I made another one from red oak that looks more modern. This 2” walnut slab still makes a great looking bench. I sawed this slab 57 days ago from a nice walnut log. It’s going to sit at the end of my bed to be used as a dressing bench. Here's the project page to go with this blog.

I cut the shoulders from the legs, leaving a 2 1/4” tenon. Then used the cut off pieces of leg material to make a jig to cut the matching mortise. First I drill out some of the waste material with a spade bit, then use a sharp chisel to square up the mortise.

The jig makes it easy to keep the sides of the mortise square. Sometimes I use a router with a pattern bit to cut the mortise. This slab was a little too soft to cut with a router, so I used a chisel.

The mortise was too easy to cut in the soft wood, so I filled the soft parts with a mixture of West System 3 epoxy and acetone (15% by weight) The thinned epoxy fills punky wood and makes a firm surface. Here’s the mortise before I stabilized the wood.

It only took about 1/2 a day to make this bench.

-- Hal, Tennessee http://www.first285.com



5 comments so far

View Mickey Cassiba's profile

Mickey Cassiba

312 posts in 1776 days


#1 posted 06-11-2011 05:39 AM

Hal, I love the bench…and your tips are invaluable…but I’m a sucker for live edge stuff.

-- One of these hammers oughta fix that...

View HalDougherty's profile

HalDougherty

1820 posts in 1982 days


#2 posted 06-11-2011 12:21 PM

Almost everything I saw that’s not suitable for gunstocks gets made into live edge benches or tables. I use them as dressing benches. One is at the end of my bed, another one is in the bathroom and as soon as I build a rack to hang coats, gloves, keys, etc. I’m going to put one next to my front door. I guess I’ll have to put a shoe shelf under it too.

-- Hal, Tennessee http://www.first285.com

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1583 days


#3 posted 06-12-2011 01:51 PM

This is a wonderful blog Hal. Thanks so much for posting this. I have some cherry that I have been saving to make a bench similar to yours, however I am always too afraid to make the first cut! I like the idea of the jig- but couldn’t really visualize the process as a whole. I think I can now- though I have one question- are you saying that you use the end of the board- after you cut the shoulder off- to use (trace) the pattern for the jig?

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View HalDougherty's profile

HalDougherty

1820 posts in 1982 days


#4 posted 06-12-2011 04:25 PM

Take another look at the jig. The two long boards are just some cutoffs from something. The two short pieces are from the waste next to the tenon. They are exactly the same thickness as the leg, because they were part of it. I use the tenon as a spacer to make the opening in the jig. The two pieces are clamped and glued so the tenon is a tight fit. After the glue dries, I assemble the legs and spreaders and place them on the slab. I clamp the jig and use the legs to make sure it’s at the right place to cut. After I cut the first mortise, I put the leg tenon in the opening, (don’t cut the hole big enough to fit the tenon yet), and use the other tenon to locate the jig to cut the second mortise. When both openings are made, use the legs to determine which side of the mortise to open enough to assemble the slab and legs. You can always remove wood, you can’t put it back easily. However, if you take out too much, just make the wedges bigger, or put one on each side of the mortise. I’ve messed up so much in the past that I’ve had wedges make a border around the tenon. It looks great that way too and everybody things it was something you had planned.

I always use a spade bit or forstner bit to remove as much waste as possible and then use a chisel or 1/2” pattern bit in my router to make the opening. Both methods make openings and you’ll make smaller mistakes with the chisel… Routers are quicker and make bigger mistakes much quicker!

-- Hal, Tennessee http://www.first285.com

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1583 days


#5 posted 06-12-2011 07:18 PM

Thanks Hal! I am going to have to give this a try when I get a minute or two. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

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