slats - to shoulder or not

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Forum topic by rg33 posted 07-09-2015 08:01 PM 644 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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83 posts in 1422 days

07-09-2015 08:01 PM

Hello again everyone,

I am building a crib and am getting ready to cut mortises for the slats. the wooden piece where the slats are going is 3/4 thick and the slats are 1/2” thick. My original plan was to shoulder the slats (tenons), something like 5/16 for the tenons and then make the mortises accordingly. My issue with this is mainly time (my son is outgrowing his bassinet quickly). I dont have a mortiser so the method described above would require the mortises to then be squared by hand (all 72 of them) or somehow knock off the square edges on the tenons to fit them in the round mortises. Plus the time to shoulder the slats.

I was thinking, what about instead of this, I dont shoulder the slats, put a full round on them and then simply mortise a 1/2 slot on the mating piece. In this manner the slats just fit in the mortise with no shoulder. About the only drawback I see here is having to make sure the mortises are pretty dead on as they will be visible.

Anyway comments from those who’ve gone down either path are welcome.


12 replies so far

View Hammerthumb's profile (online now)


2513 posts in 1396 days

#1 posted 07-09-2015 08:35 PM

You could put a groove in the top and bottom rail and install the slats with spacers between them. It would be much faster.

-- Paul, Las Vegas

View Kazooman's profile


615 posts in 1373 days

#2 posted 07-09-2015 10:21 PM

You could put a groove in the top and bottom rail and install the slats with spacers between them. It would be much faster.

- Hammerthumb

That was my first thought also. Chopping out 72 mortises would be more than a labor of love. Making a slot with spacers would work very well. You still have choices to make. You can make the slot the same width as the slats and you will have a joint line along each slat where it enters the slot. You could also have some minor issues with the spacers if they are not perfectly flush with the rails. You could cut the long faces of the slats into tenons, resulting in an overhang where they meet the rail while leaving the ends the same as the first choice. This just makes a slight difference in apperance when you look down at the joint. You could also cut traditional tenons where there is an overlap along the length of the rails and the spacers are also tucked in under the ends of the tenons. That would have the closest look to traditional mortise and tenons with the only difference being the joint lines where the spacers run along the rails between slats.

Any one of these choices would be much easier to accomplish than 72 traditional mortises. In the end, any slight issues from any imperfections showing in the joinery would probably be less than what you could attain tring to get the ends of 72 tenons to meet the surface of the rails perfectly.

View runswithscissors's profile


2127 posts in 1446 days

#3 posted 07-10-2015 07:03 AM

Rounding tenons is a lot faster and easier than squaring mortises.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View rwe2156's profile


2116 posts in 901 days

#4 posted 07-10-2015 10:26 AM

+3 slot + spacers

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3844 posts in 1914 days

#5 posted 07-10-2015 11:15 AM

I agree with the groove and spacers, it really does make life easier, and if the spacers fit well it’s not noticeable.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2263 posts in 1790 days

#6 posted 07-10-2015 11:31 AM

When I made my baby gate, I cut a groove in the upper and lower rails, let’s say for sake of example it was 1/4” wide. Then, I took a 1” wide strip, and a dado set, and cut 1/4” wide by 1/4”deep notches (the stock was about 1/8-3/16 taller than the notches so it doesn’t fall apart) out along the length of it, using a fence on my miter gauge with an index pin, just like a simple box-joint jig. Then, I ripped 1/4” strips off that, maybe oversize by 1/32 or so, planed it to fit in the groove, and glued it in. That way, all mortises were equally spaced and guaranteed to line up with the ones in the opposite rail, and you didn’t have to worry about making a bunch of spacers. It’s harder to describe than it is to actually do. I left the notched strip slightly proud of the rail to allow me to hand-plane it flush.

You can see the mortises on this picture. When all was said and done, you can’t tell that a strip has been glued in there.

2.5 years and 2 kids later, it’s still holding strong.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Firewood's profile


88 posts in 1054 days

#7 posted 07-10-2015 11:41 AM

+5 on the spacers. It will be a huge time saver.

-- Mike - Eagle, WI

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2263 posts in 1790 days

#8 posted 07-10-2015 11:48 AM

Take a look at the PDF for the woodsmith morris chair. They use the same method I did for the side slats. While the spacers is also a viable alternative, I think you’ll find that this approach will be quicker/easier, as you just glue in the strip, then add the spindles, rather than trying to put in about 150 spacers.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1772 days

#9 posted 07-10-2015 02:07 PM

BinghamtonEd has the right idea, that is the way I do them. Makes the process a lot easier than chopping all of those mortices.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View rg33's profile


83 posts in 1422 days

#10 posted 07-11-2015 07:06 AM

thanks for the feedback. BinghamtonEd, your suggestion sounds like a good idea. I have a follow up question. What about the glue up? Do you glue in the slats? Any issues with glue up for wood expansion/contraction?

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2263 posts in 1790 days

#11 posted 07-11-2015 01:52 PM

Yep, just glue them in, the slats won’t be wide enough to give you movement issues. I’ve had mine glued in on the gate for 2.5 years and only one is loose now, because somebody rammed it full speed with the cozy coupe.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View MrRon's profile


3891 posts in 2664 days

#12 posted 07-11-2015 07:14 PM

This is one of those “Many ways to Skin a Cat” questions. I personally would go with the dado; cutting one piece the full depth of the tenon (5/16”) and gluing a smaller strip across all the tenons and dado’d piece.

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