Mortise & Tenon: Traditional Joints for Today’s Woodworker

The mortise-and-tenon joint is one of the fundamental joints in woodworking, and if properly proportioned and used in the right location, one of the strongest. The key element in making this joint is to avoid leaving weak areas as you lay out and build things.


Readers of an article such as this look for answers, a set of rules that can be memorized so they know what an experienced woodworker knows. Authors of articles such as this usually provide this information, and as long as the reader makes a joint of the type and size used in the author’s example everyone is happy.

When circumstances change however, and the rules don’t quite apply, the hope is that the principles behind the rules will give guidance. I think it is better to understand the principles than to memorize rules, so when rules occur in these pages, keep in mind that they are given in general terms. The most important skills in woodworking are developing judgment, understanding how the materials and techniques work together, and how far the rules will bend before they break.

One advantage of a good mortise-and-tenon joint is that it does not depend on glue to hold the joint together. The glue line is in a secondary role, it keeps the joint from pulling apart. Some forms of mortise-and-tenon joints don’t need glue at all.

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One thought on “Mortise & Tenon: Traditional Joints for Today’s Woodworker

  1. A really comprehensive & workman-like treatment.

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