How to join a butt joint

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Forum topic by A Slice of Wood Workshop posted 11-12-2010 10:37 PM 3395 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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A Slice of Wood Workshop

1077 posts in 3371 days

11-12-2010 10:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: butt joint joint table pocket hole

I’m doing an actual project finally that I’m trying to keep clean looking, cheap, and strong. I had some red oak that I planned down to 5/8” thick (wood was cupped). I am wondering what the best approach would be to join a butt joint where the plans show pocket holes being used. I do not have a pocket hole jig. Can you use dowels or would the best and strongest approach be the pocket holes? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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10 replies so far

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3238 days

#1 posted 11-12-2010 10:39 PM

I Think the Dowels would be Fine, Just IMHO!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3846 days

#2 posted 11-12-2010 10:40 PM

dowels will work just as well, you’d just need to clamp it though (pocket screws act as a clamp so clamps are less important when using screws). make sure the the joint is nice and clean/flat and smooth to create the best glue surface you can.

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

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3272 days

#3 posted 11-13-2010 12:08 AM

Dowels would be fine. However, if you are going to use more than one dowel in a joint (you should) sometimes it is hard to get the holes aligned. The best approach is to use a doweling jig.

If I had to decide between buying a doweling jig or buying a pocket hole jig, I would opt for the pocket hole jig.

FYI – There are some low cost pocket hole jig options. They are not as slick and convenient at Kreg’s main system, but they work.

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

View Brandon Hintz's profile

Brandon Hintz

53 posts in 3206 days

#4 posted 11-13-2010 12:27 AM

If time isn’t an issue, you could always use biscuits or a spline dowels work well but tend to make perfect alignment easier said than done If you don’t have a dowel jig already a spline would be easiest short of just butt joining and clamping.

-- Potential is limited only by imagination

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3304 days

#5 posted 11-13-2010 12:35 AM

Dowels are fine says the echo, or if you have a router,route mortises and use a loose tenon.

View Sarit's profile


550 posts in 3337 days

#6 posted 11-13-2010 02:34 AM

You can also do a stub tenon and mortise for this.
You’ll loose a little bit of width forming the stub tenon, but at least you won’t have to make a spline.
Although you need to make these w/ zero slop, any slop that shows up doubles w/ loose tenons vs mortise & tenon.
Are you joining end grain, long grain, or both?

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3120 days

#7 posted 11-13-2010 02:42 AM

I’m with richgreer. For that thin of a joint(5/8) you will be happier with the pocket hole.

-- Life is good.

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


408 posts in 3219 days

#8 posted 11-13-2010 03:00 AM

What’s the joint going to be supporting? Based on strength tests conducted by WOOD magazine a couple of years ago, the order of selection from strongest to weakest would be: mortise and tenon, pocket hole screws, doweled butt joint, splined butt joint, pure butt joint. If the joint will be under stress, I would do M&T but my shop is well equipped to make those quickly and easily. If you’re not in that situation but need strength, I’d recommend buying a pocket hole jig: they’re remarkably useful and I guarantee it won’t be the last time you reach for it. On the extreme other end of the scale if the joint is basically decorative and won’t be under any load, do whatever method is quickest and easiest for you.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View 8iowa's profile


1587 posts in 3959 days

#9 posted 11-13-2010 03:34 AM

I guess I’m “old fashioned” but I just can’t warm up to pocket jigs. I’ll use biscuits or dowels as first choice. On many projects dowels, cut from contrasting wood is a nice decorative touch. If strength is a requirement, I’ll use wood screws and cut plugs to cover the countersunk screw heads. Done carefully, they are practically invisible.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

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A Slice of Wood Workshop

1077 posts in 3371 days

#10 posted 11-13-2010 04:45 AM

Thanks for the replies everyone. It sounds like I will be safe doing the dowels due to the fact that there won’t be much weight on it. I haven’t worked with Mortise and tenon joints before and I think that the first time I try it I want to do it on something a little thicker. Hopefully I will have some pics of the project up soon.

-- Follow me on YouTube-

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