Tenon this Or Tenon that?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by woodsliver posted 03-28-2011 01:56 AM 2040 views 2 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View woodsliver's profile


14 posts in 2674 days

03-28-2011 01:56 AM

I’m in need of some good advise…I am starting a project that requires tenon joinery and I am confused to say the least. Could someone enlighten me as to the advantage or disadvantages of using floating tenons as opposed to cutting a single mortise and tenon? I have not used floating tenons yet but they look do-able if not cheating a little….

-- Now if some of my drawings could build themselves.....

14 replies so far

View patron's profile


13606 posts in 3364 days

#1 posted 03-28-2011 02:08 AM

floating tenons have certain advantages

one good mortising jig
makes all the mortises

the parts are mostly all cut square
and to length
no extra for the tenon
to get confused with
the tenons can be made from flat stock
and the edges rounded
then just cut to length as needed
(make more stock for later)

from what i’ve read
the floating is just as strong as regular tenons
with good glue

since all the parts can be cut to length quickly
all the detail time is saved
for things like finishing

here is a place to look for mortising jigs

have at it
and enjoy

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3098 days

#2 posted 03-28-2011 03:54 AM

I’ve become a fan of floating (aka “loose”) tenons. I use the Mortise Pal jig. It allows me to make virtually perfect mortises with little effort. Previously I did conventional M & T joints. I always did the tenons with a “sneak up on it” approach, which took a lot of time.

In theory, a loose tenon is not as strong as a conventional M & T joint, but the difference is, IMO, irrelevant.

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

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3152 days

#3 posted 03-28-2011 04:13 AM

+1 on everything Patron and Rich said. The shoulder on your joints are so clean too. Rich is also right about the Mortise Pal. Its a great well-made American product that is accurate and simple to use.

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2677 days

#4 posted 03-28-2011 04:19 AM

I switched from fixed tenons to loose tenons about 8 years ago. Like the previous posts indicated, you can cut all you parts exactly to length and not worry about adding the extra material for the tenon (and being off by 1/4” – sh*% happens). I use a standard plunge router, with an adjustable fence and down cut spiral bits to cut the mortises. Accurate marking of the mortise slots is a must!

Once the mortises are cut, it is easy to fine tune the length of the tenon to accommodate the actual depth of the mortises and not end up with a tenon to short that now won’t fit properly.

I’ve never had a loose M&T joint fail in 8 years. Just make sure you don’t glue starve the joint and the loose tenons fit properly. HUGE time saver!

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View Woodworker123's profile


89 posts in 2876 days

#5 posted 03-28-2011 05:58 PM

That sounds like a pretty insteresting setup cr1. I don’t suppose you have photos or a build description somewhere of it?

I used a mill on the project I’m currently working on to cut through mortises and dowel holes. Unfortunately when cutting the dowel holes I forgot to correct my DRO for the edge finder radius. Very fortunately I did not forget before I cut the through mortices.

View woodsliver's profile


14 posts in 2674 days

#6 posted 03-28-2011 09:47 PM

Thanks Guys…I think you have swayed me towards loose tenons. Except for all the “old school” out there, I’m in agreement as to which way to go now. I suppose even with reproductions, one wouldn’t even know if the tenons were cut one way or another.

-- Now if some of my drawings could build themselves.....

View woodsliver's profile


14 posts in 2674 days

#7 posted 03-28-2011 09:49 PM

cr1, I wouldn’t mind seeing your setup also…..

-- Now if some of my drawings could build themselves.....

View Tyler's profile


174 posts in 2716 days

#8 posted 03-28-2011 10:29 PM

Dumb question, would loose tenon joinery work the same if the mortise had square edges (like ones cut by a mortiser)? Just wondering if the rounded edges played some role with glue up or were just due to the fact that routers make rounded edges….

View Woodworker123's profile


89 posts in 2876 days

#9 posted 03-28-2011 10:38 PM

Tyler, I would guess you could just make your floating tenons without the round overs. I don’t think you’d want to use rounded tenons in a square mortise, because you’d be reducing the wood-glue-wood contact area, reducing the strength of the joint. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but if you cut your mortises square, it seems like it’d be easier to just not put the roundover on the tenons either so they fit nicely.

I’m sure someone can chime in with why they are often rounded, but I bet your right about them being round simply because that’s how the mortises often are. Router methods give you round mortises and if you can save the trouble of squaring them with a chisel that’s a time saver. I’m pretty new to woodworking myself, but I’m learning that sometimes certain methods aren’t worth it. If it doesn’t adversely affect the final strength or aesthetics, or if one method gives you more enjoyment to perform, then why not? I doubt any of my furniture will ever be x-rayed and analyzed to look at the hidden joinery.

View Tyler's profile


174 posts in 2716 days

#10 posted 03-28-2011 10:52 PM

That is kind of what I was thinking – just use square tenon stock and save another step.

@woodsliver – sorry if this is considered hijacking. Not my intent. Your post just turned a light bulb on in my head.

View JHawkFan's profile


24 posts in 2715 days

#11 posted 03-28-2011 10:57 PM

Hey I’ve had this conversation with someone before and got this web site out of it. It’s a sales site but at the bottom are some videos where he goes over different types of joints and their pros and cons as well as some small history on them. Hope this might help

-- Matt Speer , ‎"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential." - Winston Churchill

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3600 days

#12 posted 03-28-2011 11:20 PM

Here’s a great shop made jig, I just made one for a class i’m teaching

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View pjones46's profile


1001 posts in 2666 days

#13 posted 04-01-2011 08:29 AM

If you choose to use the loose tenon method, look at this supplier:

Loose Tenon

I use these with the Mortise Pal jig and also make my own on occasion.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View woodsliver's profile


14 posts in 2674 days

#14 posted 04-04-2011 04:19 AM

Thanks guys…I think I’m a convert to loose tenons. I checked out Godzilla a while back and I’m impressed. So much I plan on building a horizontal machine myself.

-- Now if some of my drawings could build themselves.....

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics