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Basic Joinery - The Mortise-And-Tenon

For over 5,000 years, woodworkers have used mortise-and-tenon joinery to make strong, functional joints. Primarily for right-angle joining, the mortise-and-tenon joint draws its strength from the mechanical joining of two pieces of wood, and from the glue applied to the closely-fitting surfaces. Many variations of the mortise-and-tenon exist - this article deals only with he basic, blind mortise-and-tenon.

NOTE: The photos in this article were taken using a Model 500 MARK V. All operations are performed identically on all MARK V models.

There are several basis rules that apply to mortise-and-tenon joinery:

1. Always cut the mortise first, then cut the tenon to fit - never the other way around.

2. To allow for excess glue, cut mortises 1/16" deeper than the length of the tenon that will fit into it.

3. The tenon thickness should be no less than 1/3 the thickness of the stock you're using. For example...3/4" stock should never have a tenon smaller than 1/4" thick.

4. Always allow 1/4" stock to remain when cutting a mortise. For example...you can cut a 1-3/4" deep mortise in 2" stock.

5. Make sure the mortise-and-tenon joint is snug - but not so tight that you have to pound it together - and not so loose that it slips apart.

By keeping these five simple rules in mind and practicing, you'll soon add a new dimension to your woodworking.

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: Cutting a tenon is a woodworking operation that must be performed without the use of an Upper Saw Guard. Be extremely cautious when cutting tenons and always remember to replace the Saw Guard as soon as you've completed the operation.

The first step in making a mortise-and-tenon joint is to mark out the location of the mortise on your stock. Remember that the length of the mortise is determined by the width of the rail that will adjoin it. Mark the stile where the rail joins it.

Mark the final length of the mortise. Remember rule #4 above -- it should be at least 1/4" from the edge. Then mark the thickness of the mortise. Remember rule #3 above -- it shouldn't be any narrower than one-third the thickness of your stock.

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