Mortise and tenon is one of the oldest and simplest joints around, but it is also one of the strongest. When tested against other joints by Wood Magazine, the mortise and tenon joint took two to three times more force to break than any other joint that they tested. It also took the award for hardest joint to pull apart. Over 4,700 pounds of force were used to pull this joint apart, and it still didn’t budge before the wood broke.
The mortise is the female “receiving” end of the joint. A hole is cut partway or all the way through a piece of wood. The tenon is formed on the other piece of wood. The tenon is the male end. It is a tab cut into a piece of wood that fits perfectly into the mortise. This joint joins two pieces of wood at ninety degrees, like a key in a lock.
An open mortise is the same as a bridle joint. A tenon is cut into the end of a board, and a mortise into the other, just like a regular mortise and tenon joint. However, the tenon is cut to be the full length of the end of the board. So, it is more like the tongue of a tongue and groove joint, only cut on two sides. The mortise is more of a slot than a hole. You can use a router or a circular saw to cut the slot and tenon of the open mortise joint.
A stub mortise is a mortise that doesn’t go all the way through the board. It is a hole of a specific depth and the tenon is cut to fit into the hole. A through mortise is one that has a mortise that completely goes through the board.
One of the oldest types of mortise and tenon joints is the dovetail joint. This joint is known for its tensile strength and is often used in furniture that will be put through a lot of pushing and pulling. You will most likely see a dovetail joint if you open your dresser drawer and take a look where the front connects with the sides. For this joint, pins are cut in the end of one board. Then tails, or slots, are cut in the end of the other board. The pins and tails are usually cut into a trapezoid shape and glued. No other hardware is needed once the dovetails are glued into place.
There are many types of joints that you can use depending on what you are building. Mortise and tenon joints are great for projects that will need to endure a lot of wear and tear. You can also use dowels for joining boards together. A dowel rod creates a strong joint and can sometimes be easier than some mortise and tenon joints. Consult a woodworking professional or follow professional advice when choosing the best kind of joints for your woodworking projects.
About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc. which manufactures wood products in Ohio. Good Wood, Inc. makes dowels and dowel rods, wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import dowels from off-shore suppliers when necessary. Visit http://www.goodwoodinc.com for your wood product needs.