Create just about any joint imaginable with these tools.
Photo of Powermatic mortiser

In 1992, the U.S. Olympic men's basketball "dream team," led by Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, obliterated the competition to easily win the gold medal. Like that team's coaching staff, we've assembled a dream team of the joinery tools we use most. Some high-dollar superstars require a sizable investment, but they do their jobs like no other tool. Others fill the role of utility players that do lots of things well or specialists that do one thing superbly. So as you fill out the joinery roster for your shop, match your needs (or dreams) to these tools, and you'll be winning in your woodworking in no time.

—Bob Hunter, Tools Editor

Powermatic benchtop mortiser

(Photo, above) no. PM701

Best role: Boring square and rectangular mortises

A mortise-and-tenon joint ranks as one of the strongest woodworking joints, and with this machine you'll easily create precise mortises every time. From its rack-and-pinion fence that makes adjustments a breeze, to its no-slip depth stop, to its workpiece hold-down, to its reversible handle, the PM701 makes mortising fun. And although you have to buy the hollow chisels and bits separately (in 1⁄4", 5⁄16", 3⁄8", and 1⁄2" widths), you can easily sharpen the chisels thanks to a sharpening cone on the machine.

—Craig Ruegsegger, Deputy Editor

Powermatic 800-274-6848,

Delta tenoning jig

no. 34-184

Photo of Delta Tenoning jig

Best role: Cutting tenons, bridle joints, and integrated-front lock rabbets

I prefer to cut tenons vertically with this jig (rather than horizontally with a dado set) because the smoother cheeks yield a better glue surface. The mass of my trusty cast-iron Delta jig helps it glide through cuts easily while holding the workpiece securely. Its microadjuster gives me the ability to fine-tune tenons to a perfect fit. And once it's dialed in, I can repeat matching tenons on other workpieces in no time.

—Vince Ancona, Contributing Writer

Delta Machinery 800-223-7278,

Lamello biscuit joiner Classic X

no. 101600

Photo of Lamello biscuit joiner Classic X

Best role: Aligning edge-glued panels, cabinet face frames, aligning and reinforcing miter joints

It's a pleasure to use a tool that doesn't sound like an angry badger trying to fight its way out of a steel cage. Lamello's Classic X cuts clean, precise biscuit slots, thanks to its six-tooth blade, easy-to-use fence, and spot-on depth-of-cut dial. In addition to settings for the three most common biscuit sizes (0, 10, and 20), the Classic X cuts slots for narrow face frames and Lamello's proprietary metal fasteners used for knockdown joints.

—John Olson, Design Editor

Colonial Saw Co. 781-585-4364,

Lie-Nielsen 60-1⁄2 rabbeting block plane

no. 1-60-1-2-R

Photo of Lie-Nielsen 60-1⁄2 rabbeting block plane

Best role: Trimming rabbets or wide dadoesor grooves

Because the blade spans the plane body's full 1-3⁄4" width, it cuts right up to a shoulder like a shoulder plane, but with the low cutting angle of a block plane. That helps prevent tear-out while providing a wide cut. The nicker scores the wood ahead of the blade for a clean shoulder. I use this plane nearly every day.

—Kevin Boyle, Senior Design Editor

Lie-Nielsen 800-327-2520,

Forrest box-joint blade set

no. FJ08242
Freud set, no. SBOX8

Photo of Forrest box-joint blade set

Best role: Box joints

I use box joints in a lot of projects because they're strong and attractive, especially when made with contrasting wood species. I like to cut box joints on the tablesaw using a shop-made jig screwed to my miter gauge. The flat-ground teeth on these blade sets create square-bottom slots in 1⁄4" or 3⁄8" widths with no gaps or tear-out. And I never have to guess at the blade setup when returning to it later.

—Bob Hunter, Tools Editor

Forrest 800-733-7111,

Freud 800-334-4107,

Leigh 24" dovetail jig

no. D4R Pro

Photo of Leigh 24" dovetail jig

Best role: Half-blind and through-dovetails, box joints

Although selling for a premium price, the Leigh D4R Pro creates three different kinds of joints, providing a more reasonable cost per joint. It might look intimidating, but the detailed owner's manual walks you through each step with great clarity. Even when I don't use it for months, I can come back to it and make perfect-fitting dovetail joints in minutes. And my favorite feature—the movable fingers that allow for variable spacing—makes it easy to customize the joint to the project, rather than having to design project parts to match the fixed spacing on most dovetail jigs.

—Bob Hunter, Tools Editor

Leigh Industries 800-663-8932,

Festool Domino Joiner

no. DF 500 Q-Set

Photo of Festool Domino Joiner

Best role: Any loose-tenon joint

The Domino works like a hybrid of a biscuit joiner and plunge router: Its spinning spiral bit moves side-to-side as you plunge it into the workpiece, resulting in a smooth-walled mortise. With it, I create matching mortises in both workpieces, then glue in a domino-shaped loose tenon to get a joint with nearly the strength of a mortise-and-tenon joint, but made with the ease of a biscuit joint. It's my go-to tool when I want the strength of a true mortise-and-tenon joint but want to do it quickly. The tool comes with a 5mm-diameter bit, which suffices for small projects and thin stock; I recommend buying the accessory 6mm, 8mm, and 10mm bits as well if you make furniture. The included fences and guides prove helpful when lining up cuts. (Domino tenons sell separately. You can also make your own.)

—Kevin Boyle, Senior Design Editor

Festool 888-337-8600,

Freud 8" Super Dado

no. SD508

Photo of Freud 8" Super Dado

Best role: Cutting dadoes, grooves, and rabbets as well as tenons

We use stacked-dado sets often in the WOOD® magazine shop, with the Super Dado our model of choice. The 24-tooth outer blades cut clean, flat-bottom channels with no tear-out, even when cutting across grain, and the six chippers and 12 shims make it easy to set up a precise width. That it comes in a handy protective plastic case lined with foam, well, that's just gravy.

—John Olson, Design Editor

Freud 800-334-4107,

Veritas medium shoulder plane

no. 05P4171

Photo of. Veritas medium shoulder plane

Best role: Trimming tenons and rabbets to fit

This tool changed my woodworking forever and upped the quality of my joinery as I strove to do more work with hand tools. I cut my tenons slightly oversize and then trim them to fit. This plane does that perfectly. I've used other shoulder planes, but this one has the best grip and easiest blade adjustment. I later bought the Veritas small and large shoulder planes as well, but if you're looking for your first, start with this one.

—Randy Maxey, Contributing Writer

Lee Valley 800-871-8158,

Infinity Tools rail-and-stile router bit set and coping sled

Bits no. 91-502; sled no. COP-200

Photo of Infinity Tools rail-and-stile router bit set and coping sled

Best role: Frame-and-panel doors for cabinets and furniture

Cabinet doors made with routed cope-and-stick joinery (often referred to as rail-and-stile) look great because cope-and-stick bit sets make perfect-fitting joints with attractive profiles. This pair from Infinity cuts cleanly and stays sharp—I've never had to resharpen them. (Choose from five other profiles if you prefer a different look.) Cope-cutting the end grain on the rails proves much easier—and safer—when holding the rails with Infinity's coping sled. Its toggle clamps hold the workpiece and backer board securely, the clear acrylic "visor" rides against the fence and prevents chips from flying upward, and the mass of its aluminum base and handles helps me ease it through the cut. 

—Jan Svec, Contributing Writer

Infinity Cutting Tools 877-872-2487,