Joiner, an art or a necessatiy?

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Forum topic by mahdee posted 11-20-2013 12:20 AM 1319 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4021 posts in 1967 days

11-20-2013 12:20 AM

So, I chose the title, Joinery, an art or a necessity mainly because I have been questioning myself in this regard. Built a walnut dinning room table for my family of six 23 years ago. It is 7’ long and about 36” wide. The frame and the legs are all glued together using simple butt joints glued together. I went ahead and left the top unattached being 3” thick; it makes it lot easier to move around by just getting the top off. Anyways, after all these years, the glued butt joints are probably more strong than the wood itself; so did the glue claim to do and has done so far.
So, the question is, with these advanced gluing product, tide bond, gorilla, and the latest ones on the markets, has joinery become an art or a necessity?
I love joinery and use it as needed; the idea that you can hand- fit and assemble something without using glue, makes a lot of sense but what if it is not showing and the glue does the same or better job of binding two, tree pieces of wood together?
O.K. Winter is coming and I hate to be inside instead of in the shop.


10 replies so far

View hobby1's profile


344 posts in 2497 days

#1 posted 11-20-2013 12:29 AM

I used to do a lot of butt joints all the time, strong glue held well, but after watching a lot of woodworking shows on tv, and youtube, I started to do more tounge and groove joints, and have found that joinery for me, makes the assembly more square, and everything seems to fit more better, and makes the whole assembly more robust, and solid construction.

That’s what I have found, so for me joinery is a necessaty more than asthetics.

View tvrgeek's profile


23 posts in 1848 days

#2 posted 11-20-2013 12:30 AM

I started with a brisket cutter to help keep things in alignment. I like simple splines too. Might look at some of the ideas used in boat building as they are designed for rougher environment. I have an old book on Japanese joinery that has some very clever ideas. More evidence? go visit a museum that has old Chinese cabinetry in it. No glue. No fasteners.

Gorilla glue is no where near as strong as the wood, where PVA is. I use a lot of West Epoxy too.

View mahdee's profile


4021 posts in 1967 days

#3 posted 11-20-2013 12:43 AM

Biscuits make good alternative for joints that don’t show; they expand due to the moisture of the glue and make an excellent bind.


View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3170 days

#4 posted 11-20-2013 01:06 AM

I think, perhaps, you meant for your title to say “Joinery, an art or a necessity?”

But, like you, I have made things in the beginning with butt joints and glue, even nails and glue.
Some of this stuff is hanging in there just fine.
But, every time I look at it I think, why didn’t I put a dado there, or a mortise and tenon or whatever.

I will say that yes, modern glues are stronger than the wood surfaces they connect, but in a heavily loaded joint, the strength of the surface might not be enough. In a butt joint there is just not enough surface to support the load.

I think it was in FWW that I recently saw a comparison test of various joinery methods. Several surprises. About the most bang for the buck is a full lap joint. A box joint proved to be as strong as a dovetail. And, a plain mortise and tenon was stronger than a pinned mortise and tenon. Who knew?

So, I guess it all comes down to how well the piece is designed so that the joints are not over loaded and then the appropriate joint needs to be applied where it’s needed.

But, I still get mad at myself when I look at some of my old work and those butt joints are glaring back at me.

View mahdee's profile


4021 posts in 1967 days

#5 posted 11-20-2013 01:14 AM

Crank49, I stand corrected on the title. I know what you mean as it relates to looking at the simple joints,; they still hold up; that’s the beauty of it.


View Aj2's profile


1872 posts in 1997 days

#6 posted 11-20-2013 04:23 AM

Not sure what a butt joint means to you , but to me it says end grain butted to say long grain.I am surprised no one has said how lucky you are that the table legs haven’t let go and fallen on someone’s foot.Esp with such a large top.
I would never make a dinner table with out some joinery or mechanical fasteners.Now maybe it time to give the table some attention before the turkey ends up on the floor.Just common sense.

-- Aj

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1853 posts in 2516 days

#7 posted 11-20-2013 06:01 AM

I’ve broken the rules of good joinery many times before I learned how to do proper woodworking. Many of those older items I made held up just fine. Some didn’t.

Given the cost of materials and the time it takes to mill wood, sand and finish, I generally don’t recommend skipping the joinery for end grain to long grain joints. The time it takes to do joinery is just a small portion of the overall time it takes to build something.

It’s also not necessary most of the time to do elaborate joinery such as dovetails and mortise and tenons. Oftentimes some biscuits, floating tenons or even dowels are perfectly acceptable.

Keep the joinery as simple as possible but don’t risk a good piece furniture for the sake of saving an hour of work.

-- See my work at and

View jdh122's profile


1052 posts in 3017 days

#8 posted 11-20-2013 01:28 PM

I’m with Backbevel on this – I don’t understand what you mean when you describe your table. Surely the stretchers are not simply endgrain-to-facegrain glued to the legs? Maybe they’re glued to the legs in a lap joint configuration, which would in fact be quite strong.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View mahdee's profile


4021 posts in 1967 days

#9 posted 11-27-2013 12:54 AM

Well, the end joints are cut at a 45 degree angles and yes, they are screwed to the legs which are 4×4 walnut. The aprons are glued both to the legs and at the joints. It has worked very well all these years and I don’t anticipate it to fail unless there is a flood or something. But let’s face it, even if a joinery fails, you still have to take it apart, sand the old glue and re-glue it together. It is the glue that holds everything together.


View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2674 days

#10 posted 11-27-2013 01:37 AM

The aprons are glued both to the legs and at the joints.

Well you have long grain to long grain glue at the legs and apron which then are screwed together. Not the most aesthetic way to do things but given the glue is at the long grain NOT the butt joints, I imagine it will hold together well. If you wanted the sides of the legs to be on the same plane as the aprons then you have no choice but to use M&T, as I doubt a butt joint to the side of the leg would hold but a few minutes.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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