Tool: Beadlock Pro
I looked to the Beadlock Pro recently when I found myself needing four loose-tenon joints for a project – I wanted an economic but quick solution, and didn’t want to make a router jig.
The Beadlock system, which cuts mortises up to 3 1⁄2” wide, uses a standard drill bit with a stop collar to first guide your drilling of a series of three holes. Then the guide block is shifted slightly to drill two overlapping holes evenly spaced within the first three. Together, these create an undulating mortise into which the Beadlock tenons fit perfectly. It’s quick, simple and at the right price for this quick job.
Initial setup of the Beadlock is important – it isn’t self-centering, but this allows for more variety in tenon location. Just make sure to mill a few pieces of test material on which to confirm your setup and you’ll be in good shape.
While a traditional loose tenon has smooth sides, the wavy shape of the Beadlock tenons makes the joint very precise – but it also makes it somewhat unforgiving. There’s no left-to-right slop to adjust things. So again, accurate setup is key.
The Beadlock Pro kit is solidly made of steel and anodized aluminum, and it comes standard with a high-speed steel 3⁄8” bit, stop collar, a paring block (to guide your chisel if you wish to flatten the ridges for a traditional mortise) and a molded storage case. Guide blocks and bits for 1⁄4” and 1⁄2” tenons are available as accessories.
The tenons are available precut at 11⁄2“, 2″ and 21⁄2” lengths, or in 12″ lengths you cut yourself. (There are also router bits available to make your own tenon stock.)
Is the Festool Domino faster? Absolutely. But the Beadlock is a decent budget alternative. — David Thiel