I've been up since 4:30am, can't make noise so I've been reading about
woodworking. Crazy!! That's not the question. I've read a lot of books,
with little hands on experience and have watched shows like the New Yankee
Workshop and I was wondering at this hour - given the types of joint methods
such as dowel, mortise/tenon, pocket or biscuit, in using one of the these,
is it simply a matter of preference or are there legitimate reasons in the
use or a particular one. Norm seems to use a different method each week;
however, biscuits are most common.
For example I have read the biscuits are the strongest when it comes to
exterior doors. Maybe I should just go and buy a biscuit cutter, but there
goes the challenge and the thrill of using the other choices. There in lies
the fun. I think I have answered my own question.
Any way what are your thoughts.
Take care out there.
Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
Peter Ustinov (1921 - 2004
On Sun, 14 Nov 2004 06:16:56 -0600, "Rebel \(Ron\)"
Yes and yes.
There are thousands of joints (I have one Japanese book here called
literally "A thousand joints for building work"). Many of them can
be used for many different tasks, and almost all tasks can be achieved
by more than one joint. So there's a huge overlap, and it's up to you
what you use.
Some work better, some are easier to cut, some are more likely to
still work if cut badly. There's a famous way to judge the age of
medieval buildings by the type of scarf joint used - this joint was
simplified twice over a couple of centuries, as successive bouts of
the Black Death removed the best carpenters from the trade.
Sometimes you have to use a particular joint for aesthetic reasons.
It's not Greene and Greene if you swap those bridles or tenons for
On the whole, you should learn to cut something, and cut it well. Then
use that. If you learn to make other styles equally well, then your
Over the Rockies maybe. No-one has heard of Greene and Greene in the
Web search for "Gamble House" (that's the "Gamble" out of Proctor &
Gamble, BTW) and find some pictures. Greene and Greene were architect
designers who had a very obvious "house style" in how they did their
joinery. Modernist interpretations of classic Chinese forms such as
the "cloud lift" line. Usually with deeply softened edges on all
parts, even where this gives a visible groove in the surface between
two rails.. Dark wood pegged joints, generally cut as either bridle
joints or mortice and tenons.
If you make a table with biscuited butt joints and a quick router pass
with a roundover bit, you might label it as "In the Greene and Greene
style", but it will never look convincing. Lots of magazine plans are
guilty of just this.
On Sun, 14 Nov 2004 06:16:56 -0600, "Rebel \(Ron\)"
Well, if this was production.job.woodworking, I'd say that you pick
the strongest and fastest joint...
Being that we're supposedly doing this for recreation, it's a whole
new ball game...
I use a LOT of biscuits... but I hope to attain the skill level needed
to do many "fancy" joints...
IMO, things like dovetail and tenon joints are no "needed" to get a
strong joint, but they enhance the look and exhibit the craftsmanship
of the person that made it..
I think a lot of hobbyists pick projects not for what the need around
the house or shop, but either what can be made next to learn or
practice a joint or the use of a tool... this IS a hobby, and
sometimes the worst thing that you can do is get a job done quickly..
Also being a hobby, I think a lot of the decision on what joint to use
depends on who might see the finished work... the more chance of
fellow woodworkers seeing it, the more intricate or detailed the
joints become... both, IMO, as a showcase of talent and the knowledge
that the folks looking at the work will know what they're looking at
and appreciate the joinery, where the average person / civilian /
non-woodworker might say something like "what a pretty wood!"
Biscuits are great for alignment and they add strength when gluing solid
stock to the edge of plywood. Also they add strength when gluing end grain
to anything but are absolutely not the best choice in all instances. If you
have the room for a mortise and tennon or dovetail joint they will be
inferior to those joints. Other than that the biscuits basically are an
Biscuits are a time saver and help line things up. They are not the
strongest. However, that doesn't mean they are not strong enough.
Fine woodworking commissioned a scientific test of joint strength in 2001.
The author designed a test that would cause joint failure with strain guage
force measurements. They directly compared traditional mortise and tenon,
round edge floating tenon, straight edge floating tenon, and double #20
The king of the hill was traditional mortise and tenon, breaking at 6000 lb
load. The double biscuit broke at 2600 lb load. FWW described this range
as "Superior" to "Good". For most of our purposes, any of these work fine.
The biggest difference was stiffness. The double-biscuit joint was rated as
"moderate" in stiffness, whereas the M&T was "very stiff".
What does this mean? Well for those heavy duty things like a jointers work
bench, use mortise and tenon. Otherwise, do what floats your boat. For the
inexperienced woodworker, a traditional Mortise and Tenon is slow and
tedious and aggravating to get right. A biscuit is fast and a piece of
cake. Biscuits are very popular and for good reason.
First, I had trouble posting this. I apologize if I have multiple
I'm surprised the "what to use and when" is'nt covered in any of your
books. IIRC, Tage Frig discusses what to use and when in his books.
mortise and tenon for carcasses.
dovetails for drawers I want to be special; otherwise glued & screwed
though mortise and tenon (M&T) for more style (and strength)
wedged or pegged through M&T for extra beauty/strength.
Half lap almost never.
Mitered joints and any relatives, almost never.
Pinned through M&T looks nice and is appropriate if you want to
disassemble the piece from time to time.
Biscuit joinery only on plywood and maybe mounting trim on a piece
where strength is not a concern. A good rule of thumb: biscuits on
plywood or MDF only.
If doing glued up panels, only use biscuits as for alignment and don't
glue them. If you glue them the moisture in the glue causes the wood
to swell slightly so that when you sand the top and it eventually
dries out, you have barely noticable (but noticable) little valleys.
Remember to make your joints so that you glue long grain to long
I think dowels, wedges are pretty when you use a different color wood.
Dovetails ar enice when light and dark wood are mixed, too. For
examlpe a dark drawer front with light sides.
Thanks for your response. What can I say about the "what to use and when"
it was 4:30am. According to 'the book', 3 biscuits are the strongest (side
by each) followed by 2, then M&T. However, I don't plan on making a door or
lawn furniture. It's furniture for my den and a table for SWMBO, when the
shop is finished - my winter project.
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