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Cutting the Tenon
Cutting the Tenon
The tenon, or male component to the mortise and tenon joint is basically a stub protruding
from the end of the work piece. The length and width varies according to the thickness of the wood being
It is a matter of preference of which part of the joint to cut first, the mortise or the tenon.
When using a mortising machine, with standard hollow mortise cutting bits, my preference is to cut the
mortise first. I can easily alter the tenon thickness, but not so with the thickness of the mortise.
As always there are a number of ways to cut the joint, based on tools available to you, as well as
preference. The most basic would have to be a hand saw. Japanese saws work quite nicely for this, as do back
saws. The difference here is the Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke, and the back saws cut on the push
After marking the joint with a marking gauge, as described in the first page of this topic, cut the
shoulders, or stopping point of the joint. Then it is a matter of cutting the "cheeks" of the tenon. The
cheeks are the faces of the cut
Care must be taken to keep the saw cutting nice and straight, or the resulting fit will be sloppy.
Many people purposely cut the tenon a little heavy, and then pare, or shave it as needed with a paring chisel.
This is from the school of thought that it's easier to take some off then it is to put some back. Cutting tenons
in this fashion is a good way to go if you're limited by the equipment available.
Another approach would be to cut them on a router table, with the help of a miter gauge. A backer
should be fastened to the miter gauge to prevent tear out on the work piece. With the help of stop
blocks clamped to the fence, layout lines are unnecessary. After careful setup, cutting them on the
router table, or shaper, will result in very fast and accurate joints.
Using the Leigh Mortise and Tenon Jig will ensure perfect fits, if you cut a lot of these joints
and can justify the cost of it.
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