Loose tenon thickness -- your 2 cents

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Forum topic by Furnitude posted 07-17-2013 08:11 PM 1203 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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380 posts in 3471 days

07-17-2013 08:11 PM

I’m making a table out of walnut (but oak and cherry in the future) that will have 1/2” thick stretchers and I’m going to use loose tenons. (they will extend about 5/8” into the legs and the stretchers.) I’m thinking of making the tenons 3/16” thick, going with the 1/3 thickness rule. There will be double tenons, but i’m worried that 1) the tenons will be so thin that they could break if there’s any wracking force and 2) the tenons, if I made them any thicker (say, 1/4” thick), would blow out the sides of the stretcher with wracking. To complicate matters, the stretchers will be at about a 45 degree angle to the legs. The below drawing is just a sketch and isn’t proportional…

I’m afraid I’m thinking this to death and should probably just make them. But I’d appreciate any wisdom…

-- Mitch, Also blog at

6 replies so far

View CanadianWoodChuck's profile


402 posts in 3878 days

#1 posted 07-17-2013 08:58 PM

In my humble opinion …. I believe that any loose tenon that is a nice tight fit becomes part of the wood and so any structure that you loose making the mortise you replace with the tenon. I don’t think this is an issue. Bruce

-- Wood Chuck (Bruce)

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2449 days

#2 posted 07-17-2013 09:03 PM

Being on the inexperienced side myself, if faced with the same problem, I would probably build a mockup of that joint and subject it to stress testing.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 3953 days

#3 posted 07-19-2013 02:03 PM

Possibly drill a 3/8” hole right between the tenons … counterbore it to accommodate a properly sized screw … assemble the joint using both the tenons and said screw … cut a face grain plug to fill the hole … trim flush ???

The plug will be in a low visibility area, and, if done correctly would be totally invisible.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View HorizontalMike's profile


7749 posts in 2878 days

#4 posted 07-19-2013 02:27 PM

I love loose tenons and even made a router based horizontal mortising machine to make most of my joinery. That said, from your drawing, I would recommend a spline type tongue and groove. On the style, cut a 90-degree mortise, and on the diagonal I would a full spline at the desired angle.

A chisel can square off the bottom AND top of the spline to make it square with the mortise hole, top and bottom. I think that that would be easier than the floating tenon since you may not have a horizontal mortising machine like mine. I can actually set the bed/piece at 45-degrees and pull this off pretty easily, but not so much with a more traditional mortiser.
Just my 2-cents…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View waho6o9's profile


8164 posts in 2541 days

#5 posted 07-19-2013 02:52 PM

Titebond lll glue and you’re good to go Mitch.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2933 days

#6 posted 07-19-2013 04:52 PM

I would do it like this with a loose tenon

It’s easy to make a table to hold a router horizontally, it doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles (though that would be nice)

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