Welcome to the first in a series of posts in our Woodworking 101 category. Today we will look at the most basic skill all woodworkers have to learn and master, joinery techniques. As you will see below, there are dozens of different ways to join two pieces of wood together. Each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
The box joint, also called a finger joint, connects two boards at the corners. It is very strong and is often utilized in boxes, such as blanket chests and jewelery boxes, because of its decorative look.
The butt joint is the simplest and weakest joint. It is created by simply butting two boards together and attaching using glue or a nail or screw. This joinery application is usually used to glue narrow boards side to side to form one wide panel, such as a cabinet door or a table top.
The dovetail is one of the strongest, most beautiful, and most complex joinery techniques that woodworkers employ. It is commonly used to attach drawer fronts to the drawer box, but can also be used to to join any two pieces of wood at the edges, such as a chest or jewelry box. It is one of the strongest joints because of how the side piece prevents the front piece from ever being pulled away and because of the large amount of glue surface. There are many variations of dovetails, such as a half-blind, through, and sliding dovetail.
The doweled joint is merely a butt joint that uses wooden dowels to help align and strengthen the bond between two boards. Often times a doweled joint is made into a very visually appealing joint by passing the dowels completely through the side piece and sanding them flush with the surface.
A half-lap joint is merely the process of joining two pieces of wood together by removing half of the width from each board so that they completely overlap each other when joined. A very strong and very visually appealing joint.
Frame & Panel Joint
The frame and panel joint is the primary method of constructing cabinet doors. Each panel consists of two vertical stiles running the complete height of the door, two rails that run the overall width of the door minus the width of the two stiles, and a center panel. This joinery technique creates a large panel that is unaffected by environmental changes, because the center panel floats between the rails and stiles, and is able to expand and contract without affecting the other pieces. There are hundreds of different router details that can be used on the rails, stiles, and doors, to create a look as fancy or as simple as desired.
The miter joint is a simple and easy way to connect any two pieces of wood together at any angle necessary. Simply cut each edge to half the overall angle and join together using glue, nails, or screws. The miter joint, like the butt joint, is not very strong, but is quick and simple to make.
Mortise & Tenon Joint
The mortise and tenon joint is the one of the strongest and most widely used joinery methods in woodworking. The joint is simple, it merely attaches two pieces by inserting a tenon into a mortise, but there are a multitude of applications and variations that are employed throughout woodworking. This joint is a staple in the building of chairs, tables, cabinet doors, and paneling.
Rabbet and Dado Joints
Rabbet and dado joints are simple joints that create an incredibly strong bond by inserting one piece of wood into a groove or channel in another piece of wood. This joint is the backbone of cabinet box and bookcase construction.
A spline joint is achieved by inserting a strip of wood into two corresponding grooves cut into two matching boards. A spline joint is often used to strengthen a butt or miter joint and can add a lot of visual appeal by using contrasting colors of woods.
And that’s it. Every joinery method known to mankind…