5 Common Woodworking Joints and When to Use Them at Cabinetmaking School

October 02, 2018

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Joints are an important component of a woodworking project. Wood joinery allows cabinetmakers to assemble different components of a piece together into an aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound whole, and is crucial to producing quality work.

Selecting the right type of joint can be difficult for those just beginning their career. To help make things easier, here is an overview of five of the most common types of woodworking joints and how they are used in certain projects.

1. The Butt Joint is Simple and Easy

A butt joint is one of the most common and simple methods of joining two pieces of wood together. It is done by simply placing the end of one piece on the surface area of another in a right angle formation. It is generally considered to be the weakest type of wood joint and is typically used in wall framing on construction sites and other simpler jobs.

However, its strength can depend on the kind of reinforcements used. While butt joints are often just glued together, mechanical fasteners, nails, and screws can all be used to provide additional durability.

2. Mortise and Tenon Woodworking Joints Are Stronger

For those who want a woodworking joint with more strength, the mortise and tenon joint is a great option. Rather than butting both pieces together, this type of joint requires one piece of wood to be inserted into the other.

For the receiving piece, a hole or cavity is created in the surface, also known as the mortise, and the opposite piece has a carved nub on its end, called the tenon, that is inserted and provides a sturdier hold than the butt joint. In terms of measurements, the tenon is approximately 1/3 of the wood’s thickness, with the mortise corresponding to the height and width of the tenon. These types of joints are typically used in heirloom cabinetry for furniture such as dressers and cabinets.

3. Trade School Students Work With Tongue and Groove Joints

Another popular woodworking joint that students may encounter in trade school is the tongue and groove, edge-to-edge joint. This joint is made by cutting a slot or groove along the edge of one piece while its opposite has a protruding line, or tongue, that allows it to mesh when placed together. Since both pieces produce a flat surface once connected, these joints are effective in wood tabletops, flooring, parquetry, paneling, and other similar situations.

trade school-3Measuring before cutting can increase precision

4. Students Can Choose Which Dado Joint to Apply

For cabinetmakers aiming to connect shelves, drawers, or bookcases, dado joints come in handy. Dado joints require a groove across the surface of one board so it can accept another board’s edge. There are two types of dado joints: the through dado, which consists of the groove running across the full width of the surface, and the stopped dado, where the groove will stop at any point before reaching each end.

5. When to Use a Bridle Joint

A bridle joint is similar to the mortise and tenon as it requires the same type of cutting in order for each piece to connect. However, there is one main distinction with this type of joint that students in cabinetmaking training should be aware of. When creating the mortise and tenon in a bridle joint, each cut runs the length of the width on the edge rather than a limited space on the surface.

cabinetmaking training-5Different lengths and widths can make a difference in certain situations

The longer carving can pose both an advantage and disadvantage as it can make the joint much stronger but will expose the ends on both sides. This can be seen as a blemish to those who consider visual appearance to be a factor. Bridle joints are usually used in projects that require joining upright pieces of wood, such as legs to benches or tables.

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