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Wood assembly - tenon and mortise joint

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    Beginner Do-It-Yourselfer - Easy
    Intermediate Do-It-Yourselfer - Moderate
    Experienced Do-It-Yourselfer - Difficult
    Professional - Expert

In woodworking, wood assembly by traditional means without nails or screws yields a more natural, attractive and professional finish. The joining method is chosen according to available tools, knowledge, habits and project, although the same method may be used for various types of projects.
Popular among cabinetmakers for joining parts of equal thickness when making furniture. A mortise is a cut made to a stud (female part), whereas a tenon is a part that projects on the end of a rail (male part) and is inserted in the cut.


Tools and materials required


Back saw,
Mortise chisel (specially designed wood scissors, thicker than they are wide)

Before Assembly

Shoulders are surfaces located on 1, 2, 3 or 4 sides of the tenon, to prevent the latter from pushing in beyond a certain depth, and to stabilize the joint while hiding the contours of the mortise.
To provide maximum hold, the tenon may completely pass through the stud, but the end of the tenon will then be apparent, which may be unattractive for some furniture. For an invisible joint, the mortise will not be drilled completely through the stud, so as to hide the end of the tenon (blind tenon).
If the parts to be joined are thick or large (e.g.: bed rail), it is possible to make a double tenon (two tenons on the same part), which is sturdier than a single big tenon.
It is also possible to make mortises in the two parts to be joined, with the latter connected by a tenon-shaped part. This variation, named “false tenon”, can also be considered as a variation of the dowel joint.


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Helpful Information

Woodworking assembly technique where a tenon is inserted in a mortise
Wood assembly - tenon and mortise joint