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Make Super-Strong Through Mortises & Tenons

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Joint-sizing pointers

Joint-sizing pointers

Through-mortise-and-tenon joints typically go together one of the two ways shown at right. Either both parts are the same thickness -- a 3/4" rail mating a 3/4" stile, for example -- or the tenon fits into a mortised part of greater thickness, such as a 3/4"-thick table apron against a 1 1/2" square leg.

To join parts of equal thickness, cut both the mortises and tenons one-third the part thickness. On a joint using 3/4"-thick parts, for example, the mortise width and tenon thickness both measure 1/4".

Quick Tip! Allow some wiggle room. If your smallest chisel measures 1/4" wide, lay out mortises a hair wider than that to simplify chiseling out waste later.

For parts of unequal thickness, make the mortise and tenon up to a third the thickness of the larger part. To join a 3/4"-thick table apron a 1 1/2"-thick leg, for example, cut tenons 3/8"-1/2" thick on the apron ends.

Make the tenon 1/32" longer than the width of the mating part if you'll sand the tenon end flush with the mortised part after assembly. For beveled-end tenons, like the one shown above, make the tenons 1/4" longer than the mating part width.

Continued on page 2:  Begin with the mortises


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