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What tools do I need to make mortise and tenon joints?

Guide to DIY tenon and mortise

Did you know that making mortise and tenon joint appliances goes back thousands of years in our history? Woodworking has always been an important art form, and today we are gonna share with you the tools you need to make your own mortise and tenon joint.

Mortise or Mortice?

To put it simply, they both mean the same thing. A mortice and mortise are both acceptable terms and spellings in the world of carpentry, ironworking, and stone masonry. Generally speaking, a mortise is a notch (or a cut hole) in which a tenon will be inserted to form a mortice and tenon joint.

List of the tools needed for cutting mortise and tenon joints:

Don’t worry, you don’t need lots of crazy tools for this, but here’s the list of tools that are the most commonly used for cutting mortises and tenons:

  1. Combination Square This one is essential if you are gonna work with wood, metal, or stone. This measuring tool will help you measure anything you are making, thanks to the interchangeable heads that can be attached to it.
  2. Wood Chisels (Tool Set) A wood chisel toolset comprises a few chisels which look a bit like knives, but their blades are mostly sharp at the end so you can chip away or carve the hard material you are working on. The latter can be metal, stone, or wood.
  3. Marking knife (striking knife) Normally used to cut a visible line on the wood, a marking knife sports a distinctive triangular-shaped blade that will help you mark the wood so you can easily guide your hand saw and chisel.
  4. Marking Gauge There are many types of marking gauges, but one of the best models is the Veritas Micro-Adjust Wheel Gauge. It allows you to rapidly scribe a line as a reference for when you are gonna cut your mortice and tenon joint.
  5. Dovetail Saw A dovetail saw is perfect for this kind of job since the blade is precise and will cut your joints perfectly. If you use a normal blade or any other kind of blade, the saw might overdo the cut, which will cause your tenon to be loose in the mortise.
  6. Carcass Back Saw This one is a little bit less precise than the dovetail saw and is much more imposing in its size. But the latter will be required in certain steps of woodworking so it’s definitely recommended to have one in your workshop.
  7. Joiner’s Mallet If you don’t want to damage your wood surfaces, a joiner’s mallet is basically a little wooden hammer that is super useful when it comes to pounding operations such as chiseling, inserting, assembly, and of course, mortise and tenon joining.
  8. Pig Sticker Mortise Chisel This is a specialized chisel made for cutting directly across the wood grain. It is designed to cut perfectly as you are pounding it with a mallet, without overdoing your cut.
  9. Woodworking Clamps This is another essential that anybody who wants to work with wood needs. Basically, it allows you to hold your wood piece tight while you are working on it.
  10. A large enough workbench So now you have pretty much all the tools that you need, but where are you gonna work? That’s right, we recommend using a nice workbench that will allow your creativity to fully flourish.
  11. Wood Glue Of course, you will need some wood glue when your joints are ready. Wood glue is perfect for this kind of application, as long as you don’t put too much in the mortise.
  12. Sharp Pencil And finally, a sharp fine pencil is always needed in a workshop. Make sure you have a couple of them, in case you lose one along the way.

Can I use a band saw to cut the tenon?

Yes, you can use a bandsaw to cut your tenons. Actually, it is one of the easiest ways to cut joints of any size, as long as you are comfortable working with this kind of machinery. That’s why a lot of people prefer working mortise and tenon joints by hand, instead of using a machine. Also, using a dovetail saw is a lot cheaper and doesn’t make as much noise.

Do you need to glue the tenon into the mortise?

Absolutely! In order to make a strong solid joint, it is best to use a small paintbrush to smear around the glue inside the mortise, and then apply a very small amount of glue on both sides of the tenon, again with the brush. Doing so will allow you to insert the tenon without making a mess, and your joint will be solid like a rock!

And that concludes our complete guide on the tools you need for making and cutting your mortise and tenon joints. We hope it was helpful and that you will find everything you need for your next project.