Mortise and Tenon Joints

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Forum topic by andy6601 posted 09-21-2011 10:10 PM 1500 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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91 posts in 2466 days

09-21-2011 10:10 PM

As a budding LJ I would like to know about mortise and tenon joints. Say I am making a Shaker night stand and I want to use m&t joinery to attach the legs to the side boards that make up the sides of the table. Would I be able to cut my tenon, chop my mortise make sure that is is a good fit, glue them, clamp them and call it good? Or do I need to put an offset dowel in it, or run some screws into it as well? I know it is elementary question but I just have to ask.

8 replies so far

View glue4you's profile


162 posts in 2478 days

#1 posted 09-21-2011 10:17 PM

I’m not sure if I fully understand the question. If the question is whether mortise and tenon joints require additional mechanical fasteners or dowels the answer would be no. They “act as some kind of dowel” hemselves. One part penetrates the other, held together with glue.

-- Alex ----- Bavaria in Germany

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Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3426 days

#2 posted 09-21-2011 11:48 PM

Lee Valley carries several sizes and colors of kindoffskys.
They may be copies of the Russian ones, but theirs is made in Canada.
They usually have a blow out sale on them around 4/1 every year.

-- 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 nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3141 days

#3 posted 09-22-2011 12:03 AM

But since this isn’t April Fools Day, I’d have to agree with Alex from Bavaria.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

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6929 posts in 2596 days

#4 posted 09-22-2011 01:36 AM

No need for mechanical fastners or dowels. The joint, if it is a goof fit, and glued properly is plenty strong.

View ShaneA's profile (online now)


6929 posts in 2596 days

#5 posted 09-22-2011 02:06 AM

I prefer to cut tenons on the table saw. I will use a tenon jig sometimes, just a dado blade other times. I like the repeatability of the TS. Plus I am not much of a hand tool user. As stated above, it is probably best to start with the mortise. I use a benchtop mortiser for the mortises. A drill press, with a fence and some chisels can also produce accurate results. But takes longer in my opinion. Test pieces are always recommended for best results.

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2924 days

#6 posted 09-22-2011 03:19 AM

Gene, the sale is at the end of this month here in Alberta…

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3049 days

#7 posted 09-22-2011 07:35 AM


As long as you cut the mortise in the right place to the right size (cut the mortise first) you can cut the tenon, sneak up on it, and make it fit just fine no matter what method you use. There are almost as many ways to cut m&t joints as there are woodworkers. I prefer to cut mortises with a drill press mortise attachment, others with big bucks use dedicated mortisers, while others prefer routers. No one way is superior to the others, not even chisel and mallet for masochists. I cut tenons on the bandsaw usually, sometimes on the ts. Depends on the situation.

As for your question about reinforcing a m&t joint (called “drawboring”—go to and look for artiles on it in their techniques. Schwartz is pretty thorough in his explaination). Usually, if the fit is good and the piece is not going to be stressed (think solid wood outside door) you should be good to go.

Go to for a lot of information on m&t joints. Mathias Wandell has a lot of stuff worth looking at.

Randy, if you would,please, pick up a gross of kindofskys for me next time you’re in LV. Just post them to me as we both know how inexpensive that will be.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View andy6601's profile


91 posts in 2466 days

#8 posted 09-22-2011 02:00 PM

Thanks for all of the in put, I really just wanted to know if you needed to renforce the joint if it is done properly. I have not done much m&t joints so was not sure if I needed to add extra fastners, and I guess it comes down to how stressed will the joint be in the finished piece. Again thanks for all of the input.

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