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Atkins Saws




Wedged Loose Tenon Joint by Mark Singer


The wedged loose tenon is really an easy, strong and attractive joint. The advantage of making it loose is that sometimes the component... a stretcher for example is large, and cannot be readily cut at the band saw, or table saw... sawing by hand is a good option or this version where the tenon is loose.

The mortise can be made by drilling and chiseling, slot mortiser, router, or other methods. The key aspect of the joint is to make the mortises in all the pieces the same width and the loose tenon should be the same width also... now the length of the mortise is larger in the outside thin piece.

Why? It is just like when you fasten 2 boards with a screw....the screw slides easily through the first piece and tightens in a pilot hole in the second....the head of the screw locks it together.

This is exactly the same... the edges act like the screw head and as they are tapped in they lock the joint together.

Some points...

  1. Cut the tenon and make glue relief slots.

  2. Drill holes at the wedge slots to keep it from splitting unless you know the wood well... and the slots are cut about 1/8" wide.

  3. Glue should be on all surfaces... wedges, mortise, tenon, and outside piece mortise. Glue slots must run into the mortise so that when the tenon is tapped in the glue can flow out.  This will allow the correct amount and eliminate the pumping effect of the piston and cylinder... pushing the tenon back... and potentially creating pressure in the joint... a few voids are welcome...  The spiraling cuts on dowels do the same thing since they are continuous... cuts in the other direction weaken the tenon and create a fault or weakened plane... not good!

The joint is finished in a couple of ways which is only detail... leave it proud and bevel the edges with a plane or cut and plane it flush with the surface...

This is really a simple joint and because the long grain of the tenon is running long grain with the mortise...  it is a strong joint.

I like the wedges in a hard wood so the fibers of the tenon and mortise compress... you can use a contrasting color wood for detail.  Just remember... just because you know how to make a nice joint is not a reason to make every joint a feature... don't overdo it! Pick a few important joints in a piece for emphasis... don't make it look like a joint making class attacked a piece of furniture. ;-)

Mark Singer
Laguna Beach, CA
August 2006
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