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Joinery question - loose tenon vs. M&T

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Forum topic by B_Woodworks posted 07-13-2016 03:16 PM 341 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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B_Woodworks

14 posts in 143 days


07-13-2016 03:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: dowelmax beadlock mortise tenon dowel joinery

Long time reader, first time poster. I know this topic has been covered a lot, but I am looking for some specific advice. I am needing to batch out a number of child size chairs – nothing too fancy. I do not want to use mechanical fasteners and M&T is overkill and for me, too time consuming for this project. I am also not planning on buying a Domino :).

So I am down to the following options (unless others have ideas) and would appreciate some insight/thoughts on the best approach. I will generally be joining 4/4 or thinner stock for this project. I am currently considering the beadlock pro system, the dowel max system, and in a distant third, the Jessem doweling kit. I am aware of the price differences and that is not an object – I am looking for what is the best tool for the job. I don’t have experience with either of these systems but they generally get great reviews. I love accuracy and simplicity above all else so perhaps someone can address that for each product. I’m also curious for other uses down the road – ie would either of these be useful on larger pieces like a dining table instead of a M&T joint.

So anyway, that is what I was hoping to discuss. Appreciate any insight you all have.

Thanks!

-- A. Baker - Bloomington, IL "Just a woodworking squirrel trying to get a nut."


4 replies so far

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Loren

8295 posts in 3108 days


#1 posted 07-13-2016 04:15 PM

The issue with loose tenons in chairs is that a regular
tenon retains more structural integrity in the tenoned
part. A lot depends on the scale of the parts and
how the lower strectchers are done, as they add
a lot of strength against racking and if you look at
chairs in restaurants you’ll see where some of the
stretchers and rungs are just shaped to fit a
mortised hole and there is no shoulder.

At the juncture of the front legs to the sides note
that you’re already removing a lot of material from
the legs. Again, if there’s a stretcher below you
can probably even use pocket screws and/or
steel gussets, but if skipping the stretchers and
going for a more traditional build, you might
consider using 5/4 stock for the side rails
in order to have a little more material there
for strength. I build chairs with 7/8” side rails
but I don’t use loose tenons when I do that.

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B_Woodworks

14 posts in 143 days


#2 posted 07-13-2016 05:12 PM

Thanks very much for the information. You clearly know much more about chair construction than I. At the risk of sounding obtuse (I love a good woodworking pun), the chairs I am making are child size (floor to seat is about 14”, seat depth is about 13” and seat width is around 12” – just to give you an idea on dimensions). I have built a prototype using mechanical fasteners and no lower stretchers and the chair is very solid – it holds me fine with no racking. So I planned to use the same design, but want to remove the screws for aesthetic reasons.

I am pretty set on the notion of not using M&T, and believe I have identified the other available joinery methods. I am really looking for pros/cons for those specific options. Again, if there are other useful applications for the dowelmax I could justify that expense. I hear it is super easy to use and folks do seem to use it in place of M&T on larger projects. I guess I was looking for some real world feedback vs. marketing information that you get on their site.

-- A. Baker - Bloomington, IL "Just a woodworking squirrel trying to get a nut."

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Loren

8295 posts in 3108 days


#3 posted 07-13-2016 05:39 PM

I use dowels. I have a Jessem jig I like quite a lot
and it does both end drilling and face drilling well
so while it’s not exactly cheap, it can substitute
for mortise/tenon, loose tenons, screws, dados,
biscuits, etc… so it’s very versatile and the dowels
are cheap, strong and strong enough for almost
every application.

But we are talking about chairs, and they are
the most tricky thing to join well with no experience
of designing them.

That said, dowels and steel gussets are fine. You
see this a lot on restaurant chairs. With chairs
there are exotic circumstances when you are dealing
with refined designs, curved crests and thin parts,
but in the end the basic child’s chair should be strong
and imo a little over-built for safety. Also keep in
mind that you may be using a softer hardwood
and that’s fine but the parts should be a bit thicker.
Later, if you want to make more refined chairs,
then you use a harder wood, more finicky joinery
and thinner parts to realize an aesthetic vision,
something both light and strong. This is not to say
that chairs should be light and strong, but that’s
one of the more challenging things to do and
some chairs that meet that standard are quite
beautiful.

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B_Woodworks

14 posts in 143 days


#4 posted 07-13-2016 07:36 PM

Thanks again for the thoughts. I have decided to go with dowels for these chairs. I just ordered the dowelmax. I do think I will take your advice and go with a little thicker legs than the aprons. I played around with some 5/4 in the shop and it looks more proportional.

Thanks again!

-- A. Baker - Bloomington, IL "Just a woodworking squirrel trying to get a nut."

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