Cutting A Mortise And Tenon By Hand

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For nic, hand tool joinery is a connection to the rhythms of traditional m woodworking. I enjoy the communication between the work, the tools and my hands, and I find hand-cut joints arc as accurate as can Ik*.

Mortise and tenon joints are particularly easy to cut by hand. They're simple to make and it doesn't take years of practice to produce joints that fit well.

The drawings here show the technique I like to use, which is fairly conventional. But there arc a few tips I'll stress that can improve accuracy. First, use a sharp knife—not a pencil—when laying out your shoulders and mortise ends. It's easier to work to the exact edge the knife cuts than to figure out which part of a broad pencil mark indicates where to saw or chisel.

Second, I always make small cuts to the shoulder lines on the tenon and to the mortise ends. This forms a V-groove that helps guide my chisel and saw when cutting. (See drawing.)

Finally, when making the shoulder cuts on my tenons, I first saw diagonally at each corner, using a fine-toothed hacksaw that leaves a thin kerf. (See drawing.) This makes it easy to saw across and down accurately. When I've cut all four shoulders on the diagonal. 1 finish with straight-across cuts down to the tenon line, using the existing kerfs to guide the saw.—P.K.

Mortise And Tenon Saw
4. Make cheek cuts by repeating technique used to cut shoulders.
Saw Cut Techniques
5. Re-mark shoulder lines and saw tenon to width. Then, pare tenon to fit mortise.
Mark Tenon

3. Cut shoulders by first sawing diagonally at each corner, then connecting these cuts by sawing straight across to depth of tenon.

Bench Marklayout Picture

1. Mark layout lines with square, knife and mortising gauge.

Tenon Saw Line Drawing

2. Cut to shoulder line to make small grooves.

1. Mark layout lines with square, knife and mortising gauge.

2. Cut to shoulder line to make small grooves.

3. Cut shoulders by first sawing diagonally at each corner, then connecting these cuts by sawing straight across to depth of tenon.

Mortise And Tenon

Feather m a sums

In my youth, woodworking texts featured feather boards that had to be clumsily clamped in place. None of my machines has ever willingly accepted such an arrangement— if the rip-fence guide bars weren't in the way of the clamps, then the table's bottom was ribbed in all the wrong places.

I found a partial solution when I bought an adjustable miter-slot feather board. Hut there were several things about the commercial version that I didn't like: It had feathers on just one-side, which meant I had to disassem ble the thing and reverse it whenever I wanted to switch to the handsaw. And the single-direction feathers distributed the working pressure so the feather board eventually split down the screwr slot. With a price tag of $25. it was also expensive. So I decided to design a scrapwood alternative.

My feather board has a pointed end. which allows me to switch from the tablesaw to the handsaw without having to disassemble the gadget. And I can use it when ripping with the tablesaw fence on either side of the blade. The pointed end also seems to resist splitting better.

Making this feather board is simple. The only critical dimension is for the hardwood bar, which you should cut to fit snugly in your miter slot. I used Hrazilian rosewood for the bar and oak for the feather board because 1 had scraps on hand, but any hardwood that isn't prone to splitting would do.

Finding a '/4-20 wing nut that's large enough to let you apply some pressure can be trickv. My solution was to buy

an oversized wing nut. then press-fit and solder a '/v20 hex nut into it.

Tightening the wing nut expands the bar and creates enough pressure to resist all but the most extreme force. (No feather board was ever meant to control work that's so warped, twisted or out of shape that would be danger-

Scroll Saw Cutting Board Pattern

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Responses

  • andrea
    How to make mortise and tenon joints by hand?
    7 years ago
  • Murray
    Where to place your hands when using a tenon saw?
    7 years ago

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