When you need tenons with crisp, straight shoulders and perfectly clean cheeks, take the job to the router table.
A large, sharp straight bit creates perfect tenons.
There are a number of ways to cut tenons — a dado blade or a standard blade on the table saw, or even a band saw, to name a few. But when I want tenons with perfectly clean, crisp shoulders and cheeks, you'll usually find me settled in at the router table. The results can't be matched by any other method.
WHEN AND WHY. Unlike a saw blade, a sharp router bit can create perfectly smooth tenon cheeks and shoulders. So whenever the joinery will be exposed, such as in a bridle joint or a through tenon (even half-laps), a tenon made on the router table can be the best choice.
Another plus is that in ► many instances, the setup is quicker and sometimes a little more user-friendly than the table saw. There's no dado blade changeover or tenoning jig setup to worry about. You simply install a straight bit in the router table and you're ready to go.
THE ESSENTIALS. There are only three basic necessities for router table tenons. The first is a sharp straight bit you'll use to remove the waste. A large-diameter bit will get the job done quicker. I have a !/i"-shank, lM-dia. bit that I reserve for this purpose (photo in left margin).
Next, the router table fence is set as a stop to gauge the length of the tenon. The fence should provide a smooth surface for the end of the workpiece to slide along. A fence with an adjustable bit opening or an auxiliary fence works well.
Finally, you need an effective way to hold the workpiece square to the fence as you feed it across the bit. Rather than use a miter gauge,
I rely on a simple right angle guide that slides along the fence (main photo above). This arrangement gives you much better control and it guarantees the workpiece will always be square to the fence.
BACK UP. The guide also serves another important purpose. When routing the tenon, you're working across the grain and chipout at the trailing edge of the workpiece is a danger. My solution is to provide support at the edge with a slip-in, replaceable backup fence.
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