trouble with mortis & tenon joints

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Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 07-22-2008 04:58 AM 3543 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2104 posts in 3750 days

07-22-2008 04:58 AM

Topic tags/keywords: mortis tenon

Well, I’ve been working on building a sanding supply cabinet that is being made out of some of the less desirable piece of my walnut stash. I glued up a solid top and bottom to the cabinet and was going to make the sides out of plywood panels, set inside rails and stiles.

I should point out that, I do not have a jointer of any kind. The rails and stiles for the sides are 3” wide and 3/4” thick and because there is no jointer, there is a slight bow to all the stiles and the rails are too short to tell (maybe 6”?).

I cut the mortises I using a straight router bit on my router table. when I fit the joints, it seems that the mortises were cut crooked (the top of each joint is recessed and the bottom is proud). My fence was a straight piece of mdf against a plastic fence so there was no flexing no matter how hard I push. Do you think the poor result could be from running a curved board along the fence? When I hold the stiles against each other, each bowing out, the total gap is 1/2” in the middle of the boards so i guess it bows about 1/4” inch each over the 3 ft length. I figured the effect would be negligible. I know the question is not phrased wonderfully, but any thoughts?

5 replies so far

View woodspar's profile


710 posts in 4121 days

#1 posted 07-22-2008 05:11 AM


I am with you on the no jointer….sigh {-(

I created a set of shutters without a jointer (check my projects, I did not write a blog yet … :-) and I was very concerned about exactly what you described – what about the bowing…

I cut my morts on my router table too.

Anyway, how is your fence set up relative to your blade? You have to realize that the board is going to take the path of least resistance through that valley between your blade and your fence.

Have you checked the front (leading edge) and back (following edge) of the blade against the fence?

-- John

View bbqking's profile


328 posts in 3745 days

#2 posted 07-22-2008 05:30 AM

Just keep working at it. This is a sandpaper storage thing. Cut 2 or 3 thousand mortise and tenon joints, maybe less. Somewhere it will click. All of a sudden, it will be easy, everything looks good, all the bugs are worked out, and it will be fine. I would look at how you cut your tenons and if your saw is tuned to cut them right. If they’re not through tenons, use good glue and clamp it good. Hide your mistakes in the back of your cabinet till you can get it right. No one will ever know. As always, bbqKing.

-- bbqKing, Lawrenceville

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3837 days

#3 posted 07-22-2008 05:34 AM

If I follow your question correctly, either the mortise or the tenon is not centered. I am guessing it is the mortise.

I always cut my mortise first. While cutting it I flip the board referencing the cut from one side first then the other side. That makes the mortise perfectly on center. Then I adjust the tenon width to fit the mortise. You didn’t say how you cut the tenon.


-- Scott - Chico California

View woodspar's profile


710 posts in 4121 days

#4 posted 07-22-2008 06:09 AM

The other thing to remember is when you rip the stiles, you need to watch the fence so that the piece is tight against the fence and not leaving the fence – thats one place where bowing creeps in.

-- John

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3750 days

#5 posted 07-22-2008 02:54 PM

I’ll try and snap a few photos this weekend. I really think it is the bow in the boards, but maybe it really is my lack of practice. If I can get some pics, I’ll post them up to see if I can better illustrate my problem.

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