how do I tenon long 2x4s?

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Forum topic by whiteshoecovers posted 08-13-2015 12:24 PM 1374 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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59 posts in 1113 days

08-13-2015 12:24 PM

I want to make a mortise and tenon fence so essentially need to cut a tenon in many, many 2×4s. This post is to specifically ask advice for methods to effectively (I want them nice, clean and tight) and efficiently (I have about 20-25 fence panels to make at 6 tenons/panel) accomplish this. The 2×4s will be about 6’ long, so it’s not immediately obvious that they will not be too unruly to cut the shoulders on my table saw. The wood will be some type of WRC.

Maybe a jig for a circular saw?



12 replies so far

View fiddlebanshee's profile


195 posts in 2974 days

#1 posted 08-13-2015 12:28 PM


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View Mark Shultz's profile

Mark Shultz

105 posts in 2418 days

#2 posted 08-13-2015 12:32 PM

daddo on TS

View bonesbr549's profile


1558 posts in 3096 days

#3 posted 08-13-2015 12:50 PM

Easy. Make a sleeve out of 3/4” stock that fits around the 2×4(snugly) and slide it over the 2×4 exposing the length to trim off. Use a router with a flush trim bit letting the bearing ride against the sleeve and clamp the 2×4 down and move the router around the four sides and you have a tenon. This is the method Charles neil outlines in his vid making a period bed. Worked great for putting a tenon around the bed rails. Once you set it up, you will do them in about two minutes.

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View TheFridge's profile


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#4 posted 08-13-2015 01:05 PM

Pretty much

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View Kazooman's profile


1032 posts in 1981 days

#5 posted 08-13-2015 01:09 PM

I used a method similar to what Bones described to cut the tenons on the stretchers for my bench except I didn’t use a flush trim bit. I just used a straight bit and had the guide block I fashioned set back enough to run the router base against it. The only problem with this technique is if you need fairly long tenons. Then you have a potential problem with supporting the router base. In my case, I cut the pieces a few inches longer than the final dimension and left some of the wood at the end intact to support the outside edge of the router base. Sort of like making a wide dado cut across the piece. Then I just trimmed off the excess.

For six foot 2 X 4’s I agree that you should be able to do these on the table saw with a dado cutter, or using a bad saw to make the cheek cuts and the table saw to cut off the pieces. In either case, once you have things set up with appropriate stop blocks for the length of the tenon it should go pretty quickly.

View whiteshoecovers's profile


59 posts in 1113 days

#6 posted 08-13-2015 01:25 PM

holy cow, posted this over coffee and by the time I sit down in my office already a bunch of great responses.

Like I said, I would prefer to use my TS, just haven’t tried yet so am not sure what the result will look like.

I like the jig idea for the router as well. The tenons will only be ~1.5” long so that’s not terrible.


View bandit571's profile


20266 posts in 2712 days

#7 posted 08-13-2015 01:38 PM

So, you have a bunch to tenon?

Mark the layout lines on all the boards. Get them clamped so the lines line up. Couple of clamps across the entire group. Some above, some below. Now, a couple more clamps to hold this “panel” in place on the tablesaw, you don’t want it to move.

Circular saw: Make the shoulder cut as best as you can, across the entire panel. Then make a series of relief cuts out to the end. Just a few, as you will take a hammer to break off the waste. Wide chisel to smooth it down

Flip the panel over, and repeat. You can then stand all of them on edge, and repeat again. Flip and repeat.
You will be using the saw as a “sawbench” . Do the cuts on which ever end you feel compfy working from. By clamping the “panel” down to the TS, you can keep things from both shifting around, or tipping when the circular saw being used. Other than the shoudler cuts, the rest can just be a matter of eyeballing across, and make a pass a few times. Take your time on the important cuts, and the rest can be as fast as you like. Set the depth of the cuts just a hair shallow, chisel to refine…


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View a1Jim's profile


117127 posts in 3606 days

#8 posted 08-13-2015 02:44 PM

You can gang cut them with the circular saw approach or the router or even with a radial arm saw with a dado blade. Have you considered loose tenons ?

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View MisterBill's profile


411 posts in 2280 days

#9 posted 08-13-2015 09:34 PM

Along the lines of what Bones said: make this jig and use your router to make the tenons.

View Redoak49's profile


3289 posts in 2017 days

#10 posted 08-14-2015 12:22 AM

MisterBill has the best suggestion and you can probably do 4-6 in a group.

View whiteshoecovers's profile


59 posts in 1113 days

#11 posted 08-14-2015 03:07 PM

All right, I think I’ll first give it a shot on my TS. If I’m not happy with that process or result I think I’ll go to the router jig suggested by misterbill.

Thanks again everyone.

View whiteshoecovers's profile


59 posts in 1113 days

#12 posted 08-22-2015 12:45 AM

Okay I’m back.

I had time today to go find the WRC I’ll use (S1S2E). The lumber yard I went to also had clear WRC, which was BEAUTIFUL, but I couldn’t justify the cost for this project. With all clear cedar the fence would of been $63/linear ft just for the wood. The s1s2e makes it half that.

The 2×4s are rough one side so I planed that smooth first which left me with a 1 3/8” thickness.. I was pleasantly surprised with how light these are so I cued one up and cut a tenon on my TS with a dado blade. Totally possible but:

1. The quality of the shoulder cut is unacceptable.
2. The quality of the cheek cut is really borderline acceptable. It’s pretty rough so doesn’t provide the nice smooth surface required for a tight, strong glue bond.

So I’m thinking I’ll add an operation and first make the shoulder cut with a nice crosscut blade then come back and cut the remainder with a dado blade, both on a crosscut sled.

I’m afraid the router jig someone suggested would be both too much work and not yield a great result because of the lightweight and not perfectly flat and/or square wood.

And I have to confess: this isn’t proper mortise and tenon, it’s rail and stile construction, so I don’t also have the bottom of the mortise to add strength to the joint.


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