mortise and tendons

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Forum topic by mtappe posted 03-20-2012 02:12 PM 3069 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15 posts in 2272 days

03-20-2012 02:12 PM

im going to be building a bbq grill cart and we have already poured the concrete counter top with a cutout for the ceramic cooker now i need to build the cart, i may use cedar 4×4’s for the legs and rails but if i do i think i need to mortise them together and to cut the tendon on the table saw is the less tricky part but how can i get the mortise deep enough? do they make a router bit long enough to do this or what? Any suggestions would be great!
Thanks Marty

9 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2972 days

#1 posted 03-20-2012 02:47 PM

I would recommend using a Tennon saw to cut the tennons, unless you have, or plan to make, a jig.
The best way to make mortises is with a mortiser, but I realize most folks do not have this specialized machine, so the next best method is to drill a series of overlaping holes on the drill press and then clean out the mortise with a chisel. Or, chop the whole thing out with a mortising chisel.

Another joint that is pretty good for this type construction is a lap joint. And its pretty easy to cut both sides on a table saw.

View a1Jim's profile


117095 posts in 3578 days

#2 posted 03-20-2012 02:59 PM

I don’t think you need to mortice them at all ,I would just notch the 4×4s to have the horizontal members fit in the out side edge and I would use 2×6 horizontal members not 4×4s.when you think about it the tenon would be around one third the thickness of the 4×4 and that’s approximately 1 1/8” that’s less than the 1 1/2” of 2×6.
I’m a contractor of 25 years and build lots of decks

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View LesB's profile


1731 posts in 3444 days

#3 posted 03-20-2012 04:36 PM

I’m with Jim. I would use lap joints to attach the horizontal members to the 4X4s. Easier and in this case probably stronger then tenons.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Chipy's profile


374 posts in 2594 days

#4 posted 03-20-2012 04:44 PM

You could use a half lap joint which could be cut with a circular saw,table saw.radial arm saw or even a hand saw and chisel.

View ChrisK's profile


1964 posts in 3082 days

#5 posted 03-20-2012 05:44 PM

I would go half laps. You could drill 2 through holes and put some dowels through for looks and some more strength. Use a glue suitable for outdoors.

-- Chris K

View a1Jim's profile


117095 posts in 3578 days

#6 posted 03-20-2012 06:06 PM

4×4s are not rated as horizontal members after notching the 4×4 legs if you feel a 2×6 is not strong enough for what your doing just ad a extra 2×6 on the in side of the outside 2×6 and if you really want to over kill it use some construction adhesive in between the two and use a couple 3” deck screws toe nailed on the inside 2×6.
This way you have two different wood grains holding the weight not just one.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View mtappe's profile


15 posts in 2272 days

#7 posted 03-20-2012 09:57 PM

Thanks for all the information you guys ROCK! going out tonight to price Cedar or Treated lumber of course treated will be cheaper but not as nice to look at. not sure where to look for cypress wood and of course teak will be out of the ball park $$$$ for the framing.

Thanks for all the suggestions

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2972 days

#8 posted 03-20-2012 10:25 PM

Looks like FIVE votes for lap joints.
Don’t know when I have seen everybody agree on one thing so completely.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2999 days

#9 posted 03-21-2012 03:49 AM

I went for through tenons in 4×4’s on my last couple benches just for fun. I do have a mortising machine but I was experimenting with other methods. I did different techniques each time as I had not made any in a long time and wanted to test (play). From easiest to hardest:

Mortising machine
Multi-machine (Cheap Chinese knockoff from HF)
Drill and chop
Chop out by hand with mortising chisel
Drill corners and saw out waste with bow saw.

It would have been a different story with other stock. This was with wet cedar 4×4. The wood was too mushy to get good bites with the chisel which made both chopping tests ugly. The bow saw would have been better had the blade been longer and coarser. I could have tried a long mortising bit in the router but at the time I didn’t have a 1/2 in router with the power to swing it.

The most surprising thing was using a plunge cut with a multi-tool. I had picked it up on sale at HF for $25 to do some sheetrock work had never used one before and just tried it on a whim. I didn’t realize how vicious they were with wood. The blade just slips right in. The only down side was that it was pretty hard to get the cuts to meet in the middle.

I did 2×4’s for the cross pieces and barely cut of any shoulders (about 1/8in)

Pics of one of them in my projects.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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