Help! Broken floating tenon

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Forum topic by Pitt posted 05-31-2014 05:30 PM 924 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Pitt's profile


35 posts in 3229 days

05-31-2014 05:30 PM

I need help…

I’m trying to finish a blanket chest for a wedding. It uses floating tenons. Apparently when cutting the hinge mortises I applied too much force and snapped an upper tenon (see pics). Both the leg and the rail are hickory.

Any suggestions? I would love to not have to disassemble the whole thing.


This is the back corner of the chest showing the leg and rail

View from the top

Broken tenon in rail

Broken tenon in leg

9 replies so far

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1738 days

#1 posted 05-31-2014 05:44 PM

Depends upon how much time you want to put into it. You can drill out the middle of the floating tenon and carefully cut the rest away with a chisel then make a new tenon. It will take some time but should work fine.

The question is, how did a tenon snap clean across the grain like that? I can’t tell from the picture but you didn’t put the grain in the same direction as the joint, did you? It should be perpendicular.

-- See my work at and

View NiteWalker's profile


2735 posts in 1998 days

#2 posted 05-31-2014 06:02 PM

I’d take it apart and re-rout the mortices for the loose tenons. Make new loose tenons with the grain perpendicular to the joint so the same thing doesn’t happen again. Also consider making new loose tenons for the rest of the joints if they’re the same way.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Pitt's profile


35 posts in 3229 days

#3 posted 05-31-2014 06:08 PM

Thanks guys – I was afraid of that. The grain of the rail is horizontal – the leg is vertical. I’m going to be perpendicular with only one. Does it matter which?

View neverenougftackle's profile


195 posts in 1268 days

#4 posted 05-31-2014 06:14 PM

I have to agree 100% with all of the above. Take a fine tooth hack saw and carefull cut the other tendon side free. Running down the seamed joint. Looking at the/your photos you used a round bit of some sort, originally to drill out your mortice’s, rounded ends.,. Good. Start out with a smaller bit and drill out the glued in tendons, and then using a sharp (!!!) chisel clean the rest up. Make new tendons fitting their size, for your fresh cut mortice’s,,,

Since you are working with a solid fixed sides, you might consider on just one side with a shorter flooting tendons slid across with some kind of small point steel. Thin Enough to slide between the seam. Then after the glue dries a contrasting cross grain drill threw round Oak peg. To lock in your tendon and as a added feature to all of your joints. ,,,,following the upper poster advice.

Go up to my project site, and look at the top of my Display Coffee Table, and look at the pegs that hold the table’s tops four framed sides, that I have peged tendons, as an example.

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7713 posts in 1801 days

#5 posted 05-31-2014 06:30 PM

Wood is strong along the grain, weak across the grain. You want the grain running the length of the loose tenon perpendicular to the leg, just like a real tenon.


View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1738 days

#6 posted 05-31-2014 08:36 PM

What Rick M. said and what the picture below shows.

I meant that the tenon should be perpendicular to the face of the joint when the joint is pulled apart and it’s sticking out of one side.

-- See my work at and

View waho6o9's profile


7120 posts in 1998 days

#7 posted 05-31-2014 08:46 PM

Run a dowel through the leg and use epoxy,

do one on the other side as well.

View bold1's profile


259 posts in 1269 days

#8 posted 05-31-2014 09:16 PM

I’d prob. cut out the bottom of the rail as far as the tendon runs with my dremel, inside the side panel grove. Then insert a new tenon into the leg and glue the rail to the tenon.

View Pitt's profile


35 posts in 3229 days

#9 posted 05-31-2014 10:17 PM

Thanks everyone. The rail came apart pretty easily. The other tenon was fine, but I have not yet “bitten the bullet” to check the rest. I think the easiest way of checking them is to use a Japanese saw and just cut all 16 tenons out (ouch) then clean the mortises and rebuild.

This was my first time using floating tenons and I frankly didn’t think about the grain – makes perfect sense, of course, just like in nature. I’ll post a pic when completed, and appreciate the kind offers of help as always.


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