The Making of Tenons
I’ve been working in the shop over the last few days to create mortise-and-tenon joints for a workbench. I usually make the mortise portion of the joint with the dedicated mortise machine. I make my tenons at the table saw using a regular blade with a miter gauge to make the shoulder cut, and a tenoning jig to complete the cheek cut. In fact, back in January 2000, Popular Woodworking ran my article on the “Table Saw Tenon Jig” and to this day I still get requests for it. In the Popular Woodworking shop we’re using Senior Editor Bob Lang’s tenon-cutting jig. Getting the larger rail (1-3/4″ x 5″ x 51″) up on the table saw to make the shoulder cut was one thing, but to stand it vertically to make the cheek cuts? That wasn’t going to happen.
When I made reproduction beds for customers I always used the same thickness and width of bed rail for which I had fashioned a plywood jig to aid in cutting the end tenons. The jig slid over the end of the rails and the router, with a 3/4″ pattern bit chucked up, was guided along all four edges of the jig creating a perfect-fitting tenon. I was not planning on making a jig for the bench parts since I had two different size rails to work on.
So, I decided to use the table saw and stack dado blade. I know this sounds odd, but this is new for me. I didn’t own a stack dado blade until a few years back when I needed one for a demonstration. I used a dado for a short time as I began woodworking, but it was a wobble dado , that’s a scary thing.
I’ve watched others make tenons with a dado blade many times. Most times, woodworkers leave the tenon oversized, then fit and trimthe stock with a plane. By now you probably know me well enough to realize I wasn’t going to use a plane to fit the tenon. I cut the tenon to fit. (I did, however, touch up a couple spots with my Shinto rasp.)
This got me wondering how many different methods there are for creating tenons. I anted up the first three ,I know, I know. I took the easy ones. It’s your turn to add others. As I sit here I can think of another method, but I’ll hold this one to see if someone puts in his or her two cents (I will say there is no way I would ever try to make a tenon using my fourth technique). How do you create tenons?
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