3 Steps to a Mortise and Tenon Joint

Step 1, actually shown at the end of last week's post, was to lay out the mortises. I'm using floating tenons, so I'll be cutting mortises into both parts.

I enjoy working at the slot mortising machine. It's nice and quiet and, for a machine, is quite accurate. This work is being done on my Davis & Wells boring machine that I restored and converted for use as a slot mortiser by adding a Felder X-Y table. The table slides smoothly side to side as I ease the cutter into the depth of the mortise.

In Step 2, I set up the table so that I could replicate the mortise locations on all the stretchers and the legs. Spacers inserted below the part provide the precise spacing needed between mortises, and spacers applied to the table stops allow me to control the length and depth of each slot. First I cut the stretchers...

... then I cut the legs.

Here they are, ready for the next step.

Once each day, I glue up another panel substrate. There are a total of 13 panels to make, so I've still got a few to go!

In the following Step 3 image, you get an idea of the small scale of these mortise and tenon joints. I carefully hand-fit each 1/8" thick tenon to the stretcher and to the leg, and make sure I label each part so that it can be reassembled correctly in the final glue-up.

The joints between the legs and stretchers could be done in a number of ways. These parts are actually quite small and one might be tempted to use dowels as a quick and easy way to join them together. Dowels definitely have there place, but by going with floating tenons in this situation, I'm able to maximize the stronger long-grain to long-grain glue joints, thus, minimizing the weaker long-grain to end-grain glue joints. For those more interested in results, rather than details of the process, suffice it to say that for these types of solid wood parts, tenons offer superior strength over the life of the piece.

And now, at last... my first dry-fit assembly.

There is some shaping yet to be done to create the sloped look I'm going for. but first, I'll shape a rabbet into the stretchers and legs. This will provide a seat for the main platform that holds the center post.

Well, I better get back to the shop. Until next time...