Tenons Three Ways

OpenerWe’re traveling the show circuit with The Woodworking Shows. This weekend we’re in Indianapolis and next weekend it’s Kansas City. While at the shows, we’re building a Shaker Stand. Throughout the weekend, we have seven sessions during which we discuss and demonstrate a few ways to do each step in the building process.

We show three ways to taper legs, three methods to cut mortises and three different techniques to produce tenons. One of those techniques is to cut the tenons using a handsaw. This method is easy to do if you’re working on the front rail, which is about an inch in width. But if you were working on the 4-1/2″-wide Shaker stand sides, or panels for another project, would you attempt to cut the  tenons by hand? You can, of course, but I wouldn’t.

There are two other methods that we demonstrate, both involve a table saw. Method one is a two-step technique where the first cut is with the rail or panel flat to the tabletop, and a second cut is made with the rail or panel standing vertical. This method allows you dial-in the exact thickness for your tenon.


The second method is to use a dado stack to make the cut, then fine-tune the fit using a shoulder plane, chisel or rasp. If you work with this technique, you need to fit each tenon individually. This is a perfect method if you hand-cut your mortises (I doubt each mortise would be identical in width). It’s also a great technique if your wood varies in thickness (maybe your planer blades are not set parallel to the table).

DadoTenonsWhich method do you use? Is there another often-used method that the 360 Woodworking team left out? If you cut and fit tenons using a method that we don’t cover, leave a comment to let us know.

And if you’re in or around the Kansas City show, drop by The Woodworking Show next weekend and say hello.

Build Something Great!

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2 thoughts on “Tenons Three Ways

  1. I mostly use table saw method one, but I’ve had a few projects that are too large to stand on end to cut the cheeks. I do not own a Dado stack so I turn to the router.

    1. I’m right there with you. I use the two-step method most times. I also wondered how long it would take before a router method was brought up. Not long. And again, I’m there with you. Using a router is my second choice, especially for long panels.

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