Seeking Advice from the Rustic Makers on Lumberjocks

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 05-21-2007 06:16 PM 1542 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hey rustic makers. I piddle around with natural sticks once in awhile, but have never spent the money to invest much in the tools that would speed up this work. I have agreed to help pro-bono with the Vacation Bible School set work at our church for this upcoming June, the week of the 10th. So, time is getting short.

This sketch is my vision of what I am to do. I will be making the rustic fencing and gate for the kids, and a frame for the backdrop painting.

I have located the logs, a pile of lodge pole pines that has been given to me for the project, but I need to work them up. This needs to look like an outdoor Colorado style ranch fence, so I will be pulling off of the bark, but won’t be doing much sanding, and no finishing of the surface. At best, hitting it with an angle grinder with a sanding pad, but maybe not.

What I am struggling with is whether to invest in the “pencil sharpening” style tenon makers. For those of you that have them, please give some feedback. They are expensive, and I would need to get a heavy duty 1/2” drill motor to drive them. Total expected cost is around $500 for the tooling I would need, to get a couple of different sized tenon cutters and the drill.

The alternatives of buying the tenon cutter is just what I have done before….slowly hand cut the joinery, but whew, I’ve got a lot of joints, and not much time.

I have seen also the router system whereby I can mount a router on top and use the corresponding plastic die to support the cutting of the tenon. This seems hard to get a consistent tenon, but I am just looking at photos in the catalog, and have no experience.

So, anyone that has some advice, please take a minute and share the tools and techniques that you think would make this a successful…....and short term project!

Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

9 comments so far

View Motown's profile


7 posts in 4025 days

#1 posted 05-21-2007 06:41 PM

I use the rustic tenon fixture that Rockler offers; around $125. Since I have the Rockler router table the fixture fit to the top plate with no modifactions. You need a 2-3 HP router if you want to do large tenons over 1.5”. The tenons sometimes need cleanup after the forming with a spookshave. The process is fast. I fine if I chanfer the ends of the log before I shape the tenon it helps to center the tenon in the cutter. The change over to smaller or larger sizes is very easy. Once you set the height of the cutter you can change out the insert without adjusting the height of the bit.

-- Creativity is the ability to hide your source.

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 4084 days

#2 posted 05-21-2007 07:06 PM

Mark, – is this going to be re-used for future plays or is it a one time use? If it needs to be taken apart and stored and then re-used then good joinery will be worth it. If its a one time use I wouldn’t spend the extra money or time needed for tighter joints. A few long screws and some extra turns of rope around the joints makes for a quick sturdy structure. I built something on a similar note but slightly larger for a school play 15 years ago and just went with screws and rope lashings…no joinery at all.

I just built a fence similar to what you have and I just bored the mortices with a 1-1/2” forstner bit and hogged out the middle with a chisel. The tenons on the board ends are simply rough cut with a hatchet and shaped with a knife.

I’ve built some twig furniture and such over the years and have thought about the tenon maker you refer to. They are just too expensive for my taste. I also don’t care for the machined look.

The central portion obviously need better joinery to lend it some strength and stability but it isn’t so much that I would invest in special tools for it. Part of what I like about working rustic items is a focus on simple hand tools.

BTW- depending upon how you join the poles to the base you might want to add some diagonal bracing front and rear. You have a lot of weight up high.

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4297 days

#3 posted 05-21-2007 08:32 PM

Mark, I think the video, logman tenon maker is your best bet. It isn’t too expensive, I’ve built a lot of things with mine. check out some of my project on LJ.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4308 days

#4 posted 05-22-2007 05:16 AM

Sorry, I’m late on this. There was an article on making round tenons on a (was it a router or tablesaw?) I’m sorry, I can’t remember. I can’t help on the tenon making, but if you have a good draw knife, it will take that bark off faster than an angle grinder(probably safer, too). How dry is the wood? The greener the better for removing the bark.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4312 days

#5 posted 05-22-2007 05:32 AM

I’m with Dick on the Logman Tenon maker. It is a pretty simple and does a fair job. The pencil sharpen systems look machined. I would only use them for a mass production of cheap log furniture or if you had miles of fence to do.

View LeeM's profile


5 posts in 4134 days

#6 posted 05-30-2007 01:51 PM

What about using a floating tenon. Instead of cutting a tenon on one piece, bore a hole in both pieces and insert a dowel. It will still look rustic but be a lot faster and cheaper and just a strong.

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4297 days

#7 posted 05-30-2007 03:16 PM

I tried the floating tenon system, but it was a lot more work than the tenon maker. The ends also tended to crack after drying causing the joint to loosen.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4312 days

#8 posted 05-30-2007 03:49 PM

I’ve use a floating tenon on log furniture when I scribe the logs to fit tight…can be a lot of work.

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4083 days

#9 posted 05-30-2007 04:12 PM

I don’t want to be a wet blanket but as a former Scoutmaster, we would lash the parts together. If done correctly it will be just as sturdy if not more and tear down is a lot easier and will probably be less expensive in material and time.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

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