Best way to fatten up a tenon

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Forum topic by Eric_S posted 05-07-2010 06:01 PM 3279 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3159 days

05-07-2010 06:01 PM

Last week while working on the nightstands, I had realized that I had mis-measured the depth of the nightstands and didn’t account for the legs in overall measurement when deciding on the side aprons length. Needless to say, 22” depth overall for a nightstand is way too deep and I’d be hitting my elbows trying to get out of bed. With that being said, I had to recut one side of each side apron’s tenon. Those are all done :) The overall depth of the stands are now 14” at the top and 16 at the bottom(legs are thin at top and curve and fatten at bottom)

However, the tenons I recut(4 total, 2 upper and 2 lower rails) are all about a 1/16-1/8” too thin :( I do not have time to recut these aprons (nor the wood). What would you recommend is the best way to fatten up these loose tenons? I’ved heard of using brown paper from shopping bags, but I’m thinking its a little too thin for my spacing, or that it wouldn’t have much strength. I’ve also heard of regluing a piece to the tenon and then recutting the tenon again :( What do you guys recommend as the best way (fastest to fix+ strength) to save time and fattent these tenons up?

Thanks. I hope to give another blog update by the end of this weekend but overall the nightstands are coming close to a dry fit within 2-3 weeks. But then I still have staining, the top, and the drawers but I don’t think those will take as long.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

20 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


5399 posts in 3627 days

#1 posted 05-07-2010 06:07 PM

I don’t know if you could close a gap that big with my method or not, but on a couple of tenons that I over-cut I have used strips of brown grocery bags. I just cut strips a little narrower than the length of the tenon and long enough to wrap around it, apply glue, and wrap the tenon until I make up the difference. I let the glue set for a few minutes, then re-glue and assemble the joint.

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

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3159 days

#2 posted 05-07-2010 06:13 PM

Yeah the brown bag idea may work, but I’m guessing that I can’t glue paper to the tenon, wait a few weeks until I’m ready to do the glue up, and then put glue on top of the brown glued paper and expect it to be absorbed through the already dried glue. I’m guessing this method wouldn’t provide any strength and that

I’d have to like you say, apply the brown bag and then very shortly after actually assemble the joint? I’m not sure if its too thin for bagging though, I’d probably have to do at least a few layers of bag and that worries me. Right now I think regluing a piece to the tenon and then recutting on the bandsaw might be the quickest (minus the glue dry time), I just dont want to though but I’m thinking I’ll have to.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10350 posts in 3392 days

#3 posted 05-07-2010 06:13 PM

TheDane’s method will work fine. My method is to apply thin pieces of wood to the both sides of the tenon and rasp it to fit.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3612 days

#4 posted 05-07-2010 06:17 PM

glue same specie thin strips to make tenon wider – then recut/reshape to fit tenon into mortise.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2922 days

#5 posted 05-07-2010 06:21 PM

I would recommend using a piece of scrap to cut to the right size to fit the mortise, then measure it; find the difference between the piece and your current tenon, and slice a shim to make the difference up; glue both sides when ready and install it.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3038 days

#6 posted 05-07-2010 06:41 PM

There is such a thing as a gap filling glue. I have a bottle of zap-a-gap. It may be helpful in this situation.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View MyFathersSon's profile


180 posts in 3277 days

#7 posted 05-07-2010 06:44 PM

I’ve done both – and seen both work.
Purely on a subjective emotional level—
I feel better about the ‘modification’ when I use the wood strips.

Never seen it—might be interesting to check out.

-- Those who insist it can't be done - should politely refrain from interrupting those who are doing it.

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3159 days

#8 posted 05-07-2010 08:23 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. While zap-a-gap sounds good, I don’t think I can fully trust a glue to fill a gap “permanently.” I’d be afraid that over years it might come loose and I’d like these nightstands to become family heirlooms if possible.

It sounds like gluing a strip of wood to the thin tenons tomorrow and then recutting will be best but I was hoping there would be a quicker way. Oh well. Thanks again everyone.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3038 days

#9 posted 05-07-2010 09:46 PM

zap-a-gap is often used when making bandsaw boxes to seal the spot where the wood was entered to cup out the interior drawer.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3428 days

#10 posted 05-07-2010 10:27 PM

how thick are your tenons anyway? If they were only 1/4” to begin with, that’s quite a lot of wood lost.

if the tenons are really thin now, adding more wood by gluing wont strengthen the joint. have you considered using loose (floating!) tenons as a solution to your loose tenons? it depends on the shape of your mortise and the way you make them/...

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3159 days

#11 posted 05-07-2010 11:10 PM

Aaron, the mortises are already cut with 90 degree corners and can not get any larger to round them. The tenons are not that thin, they are just slightly thinner than mortise so it’s loose. They should be 3/8” but instead are 1/16” too thin, 5/16”

I could do a loose tenon but that requires more work than I’d like to do to fix this issue if there are other easier but just as good solutions. It’s a good solution though and I haven’t ruled it out yet as I’m still just weighing my options for how I should tackle it tomorrow. Thanks for the input.

I do plan on pinning these tenons though if that makes any difference.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3159 days

#12 posted 05-07-2010 11:40 PM

For anyone with a FWW online subscription, I just found a good article on Fixing 7 Common Joinery Mistakes. I’ll have to remember some of these lol

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View mike85215's profile


127 posts in 3109 days

#13 posted 05-08-2010 02:54 AM

Eric…I just did about the same thing my tenons should have been 3/8 and they ended up being about a 1/16 shy….I was thinking of trying a different approach …cut a line in the middle of the tenon with a bandsaw then glue a strip in the cut….. but I am not sure if it would work. I figure that if I cut a wedge as long as the cut then it would push the tenon out?
Is my thinking correct?

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3732 days

#14 posted 05-08-2010 03:07 AM

cutting the strips to fit the tenon works really well. As long the grain is oriented correctly. I’ve also heard of Bondo being used. Bondo it up. Re run the tenon so that it fits and use epoxy.

View rance's profile


4255 posts in 3124 days

#15 posted 05-08-2010 03:36 AM

Eric, I’d go with gluing wood strips to what you have and recutting them. Both sides of the tenon of course.

I’d be interested im reading that article but don’t have a sub. Which issue did it come from?

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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