Woodworking Techniques

One of the most fundamental skills in popular woodworking is learning to make joints. There are a number of types and techniques that can be used dependent on the requirements of your piece. The following is a run-down of the most common types of joints that you will come across in today's woodworking plans.

Halving Joints are likely the simplest of the popular woodworking joints you will have to make, that said, precision is still required in the measuring, marking, sawing and planing to ensure a snug fit. The basic concept behind a halving joint is that when two pieces of timber cross each other, the joint is made by removing half of the timber thickness from each piece of wood. These joints have no integral strength and therefore need to be secured with either screws, adhesive or both. Below are the more common types of halving joints you are likely to encounter.

  • Cross halving joints - Used for when two pieces of wood meet each other square,
  • Corner halving joints - As per cross halving joints but the pieces meet at the corner rather than in the center,
  • Oblique halving joints - As per cross halving joints but the cuts are made at an angle,
  • 'T' halving joints - Used when the end of a piece meets the edge of another, and
  • Dovetail halving joints - As per T halving joints with the cut given a dovetail shape for added strength.

Mortise and Tenon Joints are generally a join between a vertical and horizontal piece (i.e. - a leg and a rail). These popular woodworking joints fall into two categories being the through and stopped mortise and tenon joints. Through joints are primarily for visual effect and involve the tenon projecting through the leg and showing on the other side. Stopped joints stop short of the outside face and are the most commonly used.

Through Mortise and Tenon Joints
  • Wedged through - Wedges are inserted in the end of the tenon forcing it apart and locking it into the mortise, and
  • Loosed wedged through - A wedge is inserted through a hole in the tenon and can be dry fitted, allowing for dismantling of the piece.
Stopped Mortise and Tenon Joints
  • Sloped haunch - Used to give the joint as much contact as possible,
  • Square haunch - Used where the wood is either grooved or rebated allowing the tenon to fill the outside edge of the joint and groove, and
  • Long and short shoulder - Also used for grooves or rebates, allows for the long side of the tenon to reach across the rebate to the mortise whilst the short sits hard against the rebate.
Either Through or Stopped Mortise and Tenon Joints
  • Wide joint - Used when a single wide tenon would weaken the wood too much, two mortises and tenons are therefore used, and
  • Twin Joint - Used on wide, thick components with the piece sitting on the horizontal rather than the vertical.

Housing Joints are generally used for fixing shelves or dividers into cabinets and involve grooves being cut across the grain. As with most popular woodworking joints, there are a number of types dependent on the requirement of your woodworking plans.

  • Through housing - Is a simple groove that will fit the full thickness of the shelf whose edges show on the front and rear edges,
  • opped housing - As above except one end of the groove stops short so that the joint can only be seen from one side, generally at the rear of the piece, and
  • Dovetail housing - Either stopped or through, a dovetail housing is considerably stronger and can be dovetailed on one edge only (barefaced dovetail) or both edges.

Dovetail Joints are undoubtedly the most popular woodworking joint and are also the most difficult to complete. This joint produces the most attractive result and as such is normally used a through joint, normally at the edges of a box or cabinet, so the fine woodworker can show off their talents. There are several types of dovetail joints listed below.

  • Through dovetail - The simplest and most popular woodworking joint, it is generally used on the ends of cabinets and other box constructions with the pins and tails showing on the outside of the piece,
  • Single lap dovetail - Used in cabinet making for connecting drawer sides. The finish is visible on the sides but not from the front,
  • Double lap dovetail - This joint is used almost purely for the woodworkers own satisfaction as the only external part shown is the end grain of one lap or tail,
  • Secret mitre dovetail - This joint is completely invisible once assembled and is normally only used in fine woodworking projects.

As you can see from the popular woodworking joints listed here (and this is not a finite list), there is a massive array of techniques available to the woodworker for completing their projects. In your initial projects which will more than likely be guided by others woodworking plans, the joints required of the piece will be laid out for you. As your skills increase you may begin designing your own woodwork plans and with these joints in your repertoire you will ensure that they are produced with sound, attractive joints which ensure your piece will stand the test of time. Once you have perfected these techniques, search out other popular woodworking joints from either online sources or through publications to continue expanding your knowledge base and skill set.