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Forum topic by Mark posted 02-20-2013 05:18 AM 1267 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Mark's profile


916 posts in 1997 days

02-20-2013 05:18 AM

I’m making a bunch on mortise and tenon joints for a project I’m working on. While most of the joint aren’t bad there are 3 or 4 where the tenon will just slip into the mortise with no friction at all ( they don’t rattle around, it’s just not snug). While I don’t want have to beat the two together I don’t really want sloppy joints either. Is there something I can do to tighten these up a bit? Thank you.

-- Mark

18 replies so far

View felkadelic's profile


218 posts in 2563 days

#1 posted 02-20-2013 05:22 AM

You could probably glue a thin piece onto the tenon cheek, and plane it down until you get a proper fit. Pay attention to matching the grain direction.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2377 days

#2 posted 02-20-2013 07:37 AM

If what felkdelic says does not work, then you could also try a product called woodswell. It’s mostly used to repair old furniture mortise and tennon joints, I know it’s usually available from ace hardware stores, but not all of them will carry it.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2946 days

#3 posted 02-20-2013 12:27 PM

Wrap the tenon with a piece of masking tape if the gap isn’t too big.

-- Life is good.

View ksSlim's profile


1276 posts in 2912 days

#4 posted 02-20-2013 01:09 PM

Brown shipping paper makes excellent shims on some of my tenons.
Glue to one side or wrap completly around as necessary.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3181 days

#5 posted 02-20-2013 01:19 PM

I usually glue another piece on, matching long grain…then re-cut. Happens all the time. Nice thing about non-through tenons it that nobody will ever know.

-- jay,

View Holbs's profile


1878 posts in 2052 days

#6 posted 02-20-2013 02:59 PM

slim: brown shipper paper. now that’s a good idea! i’ll jot that one down.

mark: if worse came to worse, you could go floating tenons.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2659 days

#7 posted 02-20-2013 03:45 PM

I would agree glueing a shim is the best way. With that said, I worked in a shop in college with a lot of new woodworkers. Needless to say there were more loose tenons then good or even decent fitting tenons. Most of them used epoxy to do their glue ups. It works and should hold fine, but is more or less the quick and dirty way.

View Mark's profile


916 posts in 1997 days

#8 posted 02-20-2013 03:46 PM

As always. Thanks for all the great tips. Depending on the gap, and it ain’t much, I’ll probably try both.

-- Mark

View LeChuck's profile


424 posts in 3085 days

#9 posted 02-20-2013 04:02 PM

If it’s slipping down easily but without slop (no gaps), a lot of glue will probably work just fine :) That’s what happened on my workbench base build and hand cut mortises. I used Titebond 3. Some were really tight, others went in easily. You can alos peg and/or drawbore them.

-- David - Tucson, AZ

View tsdahc's profile


107 posts in 2374 days

#10 posted 02-20-2013 04:04 PM

On my bench build I am doing my mortises were less than perfect, I drawbore them and they are solid as a rock now, no play what so ever. Between the glue and the drawbore they should be very strong

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2873 days

#11 posted 02-20-2013 06:55 PM

If the tenon slips in but doesn’t rattle, I think you’re fine. Here’s why: When you add, say, yellow glue, the inherent moisture does two things: It slightly increases the size of the tenon and, conversely, or similarly, it reduces the size of the mortise. Would it be too Pollyanna to think that, then, the room for the glue would be “Just right”?

If you’re still set up, would you be willing to make a few extra and try some of these ideas? There are several here that sound pretty good.

My least favorites would be masking tape (it’s foreign to the adhesive I am assuming you are using) and the woodswell stuff, which eventually fails.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2799 days

#12 posted 02-20-2013 07:34 PM

I have two ideas for you if you want a permenant solution – modify as you will -

Using the same type of wood, shave off some paper thin cuts. use these as shims – keep the grain going the same as the tenon, add glue and insert into the mortice.

If the sloppiness is back and forth but up an down is tight, using a thin kerfed saw or bandsaw blade and cut a slice in the tenon 3/4 up the middle in the same direction as the sloppiness. Make a wedge that is just a little thicker than the width of the cut and a little shorter than the slice. Put the wedge into the slice just enough to hold the wedge, glue evrything and insert the tenon and wedge into the cleaned out mortice. Tap home with a deadblow hammer. As you tap the tenon home, the wedge expands the tenon inside the joint. If the wedge is to wide, you split the joint so measure carefully. If the mortice is not carefully cleaned out, you will not drive the tenon all the way down, if the tenon does not touch the bottom of the mortice, make the wedge a little longer.

Once this joint is together, there is no adjustment without a saw and morticing chisels.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2095 days

#13 posted 02-21-2013 12:11 AM

At some time I have used all of the above (except masking tape, sorry Howie)

I have also resorted to Gorilla Glue (the original) in some of my loose tenon errs. It foams up and fills any gap, looseness, and bonds tight. I use a dam of masking tape around the joint, after it is made to keep it from being a big mess. Don’t add a lot of water, or you can end up with the wood swell failure Lee Barker points out.

My 2 cents.

-- Who is John Galt?

View Mark's profile


916 posts in 1997 days

#14 posted 02-21-2013 04:19 AM

Wow! Nothjin’ like experience when it’s talkin’. Thanks again all.

-- Mark

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3670 days

#15 posted 02-21-2013 04:33 AM

With machine cutting of tenons there are 2 basic
ways to do it:

1. the easy way, one the flat on a table saw. This
results in tenon thickness issues.

2. the not-so-easy way in which you use 1 reference
face instead of flipping the work.

showing 1 through 15 of 18 replies

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