Tool Test: Beadlock Pro

It’s a well-known fact that a mortise-and-tenon joint is the strongest woodworking joint (if it’s made correctly). On the web, there have been lengthy discussions about loose-tenon construction , creating mortises in the two mating pieces then installing a single loose tenon that fills both mortises.

With an improvement to the Beadlock system, a jig that’s been around since 2000, Rockler added to the discussion. The Beadlock, either the original or the Beadlock Pro, does not require expensive investments in tooling because mortises are created by simply drilling a series of overlapping holes, guided by a jig.

The Beadlock system is very easy to use. Clamp the jig in position, slide the guide block to one side of the jig, then drill holes. Next, slide the guide block to the opposite side of the jig and again, drill holes. That’s it. You’ve created a mortise. The jig comes standard with a 3/8″ guide block. With additional interchangeable guide blocks, you can also create mortises that are 1/4″ and 1/2″ wide.

You can purchase router bits designed to produce tenon stock or purchase pre-made tenon stock, which has a matching profile, to complete the joint. Matching pre-made tenon stock is available in pre-cut lengths or in 12″ pieces that you cut to size. The result is a strong, totally concealed joint with plenty of glue surface.

The Beadlock Pro is the newest evolution of this jig. With it you can create mortises in material up to 3-1/2″ wide by adjusting the guide-block frame along the rails of the jig. In addition, the Beadlock Pro has a block that is used to create traditional smooth-sided mortises. After using a drilling-guide block to excavate waste, change to the paring block, then use your chisels to pare a smooth side. The guide keeps the chisels in place and positioned correctly. You can then cut your own flat tenon stock.

The Beadlock Pro includes the fully adjustable jig (as shown in the photo above), a 3/8″ drill bit, a matching stop collar, a Beadlock 3/8″ guide block and the matching paring block. All the contents are fit into a molded case that includes storage areas for any 1/4″ and 1/2″ optional equipment (drilling guides or paring guides) that is sold separately.

If you’re just discovering the mortise-and-tenon joint or are looking for simple and quick method to create this solid joint, check out the Beadlock (street price at $30) and the Beadlock Pro (street priced at $120) available at Rockler stores and Rockler.com.

If you’ve used either version of Beadlock, leave a comment to let us know what you think.

– Glen D. Huey

3 thoughts on “Tool Test: Beadlock Pro

  1. Mike

    I’ve owned the original Beadlock for ten years now. I love the simplicity of it’s use. My own quibble is that the plastic knobs do not hold tight enough and tend to slip when drilling the holes. I’ve also found that using a regular metal cutting drill bit works a lot easier than using a brad point drill bit. I haven’t experinced the alignment problem mentioned above too much. But, when I do fall off the mark and the two pieces don’t line up, I just trim the tenon with a chisel and move on.

    I don’t own the Pro version but am considering purchasing it in the future. Even with it’s limitations, it’s much more attarctive to me than buying a Festool Domino or a Multi-Router.

  2. John Binando

    I have the basic Beadlock and I have not been happy with it. As mentioned by Karson, alignment was a big issue. The crude alignment indicator was part of the issue. Also, the joints were very tight and I had to sand the tenon stock I purchased to get it to fit with room for glue. I won’t use it again. I do like loose tenon joinery, so I recently got the mortise pal after I read your blog review. So far I love it.

  3. Karson Morrison

    I’ve used the Beadlock and find it deficient in one area – alignment. When you make a line on the two mateing pieces of wood and then try to alignment the beadlock jig up to the lines, it is invarable lined up to the left of each line and when you use the beadlock stock the joint is off by maybe 1/64 to 1/32 of an inch. The only way that I’ve found around that situation is to use a marking knife to mark across both pieces and when placing the beadlock jig on the line, I use the tip in the cut line and put the jig up to the back of the blade. I’ve been able to get the mating pieces together that way. Pictures of the two are on flickr here.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/karson/sets/72157600944261137/

    I have not tried the Beadlock pro version.

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