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Speed Tenons - Ever Use this Method?

by Ed Pirnik
posted 11-07-2011 10:31 PM

27 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


5404 posts in 3631 days

#1 posted 11-07-2011 10:42 PM

Ed—I have used this technique many times. If I have a bunch of tenons to do, I pull out the cast iron tenon jig, but if it is only a few, this is a faster, easier way to go.

I’m not sure I am as comfortable doing it with the stock miter gauge on my saw, but have an Incra miter gauge with a Mule Miter Gauge fence that gives me more to hang on to, and keep fingers and hands at a safer distance.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Ed Pirnik's profile

Ed Pirnik

83 posts in 2798 days

#2 posted 11-07-2011 10:54 PM

Hi Gerry:

Yeah, I tend to stick to more conventional methods if I’m ganging up a whole lot of tenons but like you, I find this a great deal easier if I’m only cutting a few. Example: I was building a quick web frame for a shaker writing table the other day and just didn’t feel like switching out the sawstop brake for use with a stacked dado set – I used this method and was very pleased. Saved me time when I only need to cut about six quick tenons.

That said, I do see the point some people made concerning putting this technique in the hands of someone less experienced.


-- Ed Pirnik, Fine Woodworking Web Producer

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2643 days

#3 posted 11-07-2011 10:56 PM

I use it when there are only a couple of tenons to make. I can make them before I can set up the tenon jig. I don’t feel insecure doing this.

View SPalm's profile


5317 posts in 3850 days

#4 posted 11-07-2011 11:05 PM

Doesn’t bother me. I have done similar. Kind of like cutting a cove on a TS.

But after getting FWW mag for over 25 years, I can not imagine you guys printing an article about this. It just does not seem to pass the PC safety rules that we have today.

Good blog discussion point although.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View MrsN's profile


985 posts in 3494 days

#5 posted 11-07-2011 11:30 PM

I would personally not do it that way, but I tend to be overly cautious with the table saw. I have a hard time convincing myself that it is safe to cut sideways on the table saw (cove cuts are another example) People do it, and sometimes they even look safe doing it, but I am not going to try.
However, your fingers look a bit closer to the blade then I think they should be. If you were a student in my shop class you would likely be doing book work for the day. although, sometimes book work is reaad and sumarize FWW articles so it might back fire on me ;)

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18249 posts in 3644 days

#6 posted 11-07-2011 11:37 PM

I have done many similar things like that on the TS.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Ed Pirnik's profile

Ed Pirnik

83 posts in 2798 days

#7 posted 11-08-2011 12:08 AM

Steve – yeah, reminded of us of cutting cove as well.

-- Ed Pirnik, Fine Woodworking Web Producer

View mailee's profile


44 posts in 2446 days

#8 posted 11-08-2011 12:17 AM

I have a dado cutter set up on one of my radial arm saws with an adjustable stop block and use that for cutting tennons, much quicker in my opinion. I then nip off the haunches on the band saw.


View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3214 days

#9 posted 11-08-2011 12:33 AM

I’ve done it in the past. Don’t do it anymore though. It still strikes me as an accident just waiting to happen. You can make the argument about experience, better equipment, etc making it safer. But I still don’t like the odds of basically shoving your hands into the blade.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View KenBry's profile


484 posts in 2415 days

#10 posted 11-08-2011 01:10 AM

I saw the video and the comments posted. All the Nay sayers on the safety side of things are always going to scream safety. If it’s new and different most folks are to stuck in their ways to accept it so they use the safety cop out.
I see the method to be perfectly safe as long as the operator is: trained, intellegent, and uses common sence. No one should use a tool in a manner they are not comfortable with. So if a person isn’t comfortable with this method then they simply have alternate ways to accomplish the same task.

I think if you guys arn’t afraid of the “safety Police” screaming, you should publish this method. Just cavet it that it’s an advanced technique that should only be performed by skilled and confident craftsman.

I honestly wish I saw the method 2 weeks earlier. I just cut 40 tenons with a dado blade and multiple passes. I might have tried this method instead if I had seen it before. Next project that needs tenons I am going to
try it out.
Oh if you like our responce and you publish it do we get a free subscription? LOL…

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View planeBill's profile


506 posts in 2377 days

#11 posted 11-08-2011 01:24 AM

Well, I don’t know how this is going to make me look but until about six months ago I had never made a mortise and tenon joint and when I did this is how I did it. I am not an experienced woodworker but I am intelligent and I am cautious when it comes to my appendages. To me it seems to work perfectly well and does give you a tenon in no time. Also, it must be a somewhat natural way to do it for someone without any other tool save for a tablesaw and who needs to make some tenons.
I thought I had come up with something new, HUH! I had not seen anything like it posted anywhere until now and was sure it had to be the wrong way to do it but it is the only way that I have to do them so it how I make tenons.

-- I was born at a very young age, as I grew up, I got older.

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3259 days

#12 posted 11-08-2011 02:54 AM

I would never have thought to make a tenon this way, but now, naturally, I have to go try it. No one has mentioned yet that the video says the result is “perfect”, “beautiful” and “smooth”. This sounds like reason enough to try it.

Would it be safer if the operator stood on the left side of the saw and pushed the workpiece away from himself?

Also, Asa says it’s the fastest way he knows. Wouldn’t a router table with the same setup (fence + miter gauge) be just as fast? Wouldn’t that also eliminate the tendency of the tablesaw method to produce a scalloped surface?

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3097 days

#13 posted 11-08-2011 06:05 AM

Well he was on a Sawstop. I wonder how even the cheeks are with this method. Also like all flip-the-stock-over methods the final accuracy of the tenons is dependent of the milling of the stock.

View blackcherry's profile


3337 posts in 3791 days

#14 posted 11-08-2011 06:21 AM

LIGHT PASS IS KEY HERE, I can’t believe finewoodworking would publish this technique, shame shame…BC

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3545 days

#15 posted 11-08-2011 06:30 AM

I’ve done it and find it works fine but I mostly use loose tenons. I think it’s best to have some experience on a table saw before using this technique.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2608 days

#16 posted 11-08-2011 06:31 AM

I don’t know about FWW adopting / blessing this technique, but it’s a go in my shop. The results and safety are as good as the setup and technique.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View cabmaker's profile


1723 posts in 2777 days

#17 posted 11-08-2011 06:32 AM

Nothing new about that method, but one word of warning: If the blade is spinning there is always a chance of a kickback incident. I personally have never experianced a problem using that method but would not recommend it to a green user.

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 2661 days

#18 posted 11-08-2011 03:20 PM

S**t I’ve been doing that for years, saw Norm do it lots of years ago. Works fine for a few but there are faster methods for doing production runs.

-- See pictures on Flickr - And visit my Facebook page -

View Ed Pirnik's profile

Ed Pirnik

83 posts in 2798 days

#19 posted 11-09-2011 04:19 PM

Well, in the end, we’re thinking of perhaps not running it in the mag. It’s still online, for folks to discover, and the fact that Asa mentioned we weren’t sure if it was safe enough for the ‘mag will serve as a good warning to only practice this technique if you are uber-comfortable ont he tablesaw.

Anyhow, thanks very much for all the input!



-- Ed Pirnik, Fine Woodworking Web Producer

View TheDane's profile


5404 posts in 3631 days

#20 posted 11-09-2011 04:25 PM

IMNTBHO, the only way to be 100% safe in the workshop is to unplug everything, turn out the lights, and sell all of your tools.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Ed Pirnik's profile

Ed Pirnik

83 posts in 2798 days

#21 posted 11-09-2011 04:28 PM

Gerry: I hear ya:)

It’s interesting however, how woodworkers really do develop a sixth sense in the shop. How many times have you set up to make a certain type of cut on the tablesaw that perhaps, you’ve never done before – you’re right about to turn on the power and then think to yourself: “hmmm, no. I’ll just do it on the bandsaw instead”

Happens to me all the time! And I’m sure it’s saved my hands on more than a few occasions!



-- Ed Pirnik, Fine Woodworking Web Producer

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2951 days

#22 posted 11-09-2011 08:13 PM

I generally use my RAS for making tenons and the majority of dado’s, but have on occasion made similar type cuts on the TS if its just one or two needed.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View TheDane's profile


5404 posts in 3631 days

#23 posted 11-09-2011 10:51 PM

Ed: Right you are. Another way I have used to cut tenons is to define the shoulders on the tablesaw (as Asa did), then go to the bandsaw to whack off the cheeks. I’m lucky in that my bandsaw cuts straight as a string (well-tuned using high quality blades).

A wise man (Charles Neil) once told me: “If it doesn’t feel safe, it’s not” ... words to live by. I’m a hobbyist, so I can take whatever amount of time I want or need to perform any operation in the shop.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Gary777's profile


82 posts in 2566 days

#24 posted 11-21-2011 04:35 AM

I have used this method before but I am always a little uneasy about it. My preferred method for cutting tenons is to use my radial arm saw (which is locked solid at 90 degrees) with a dado head and dado guard installed, I set the stop block an can rip through tenons quickly, cleanly and accurately, I finish up on the band saw.

Personally I don’t think the method in the video is safe enough for use in the magazine, is the reduced safety really worth the small amount of time it takes to set up a dado set in your table saw? Like many of the others I don’t recommend this method for a green user.


-- Gary - Carson City, NV - "Every man looks upon his wood pile with a sort of affection." — Henry David Thoreau

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2781 posts in 3406 days

#25 posted 11-21-2011 04:46 AM

I do this all the time but I make a bunch of slices until I have a lot of thin fins then ship them away by going sideways like he does in the video. Hey, it works well and the tenons are very consistent.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Byron's profile


92 posts in 2348 days

#26 posted 11-21-2011 05:41 AM

Cove cuts aren’t too dangerous if you understand what the table saw wants to do, and how to prevent it. In this case its kick back. TBH a much safer and equally fast way to get more accurate results is take the time to make a tenoning jig. You can make one to fit over your fence, or make a seperate jig that fits into the miter slots in your table saw. When you use cove cuts the piece is much more likely to vibrate and is not as clean a surface as if cut traditionally, but this way seems like it can be a quick alternative.

-- Byron Conn, Woodworking/Furniture Design at Rochester Institute of Technology,

View TemplateTom's profile


93 posts in 3249 days

#27 posted 12-20-2011 02:07 PM

For years I have been producing tenons You might like to conssider the latest method I have developed

-- Getting more from my router with the aid of Template Guides Selection of Projects listed on You -Tube "Routing with Tom O'Donnell"

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