On 2/2/2013 3:51 PM, Swingman wrote:
> I do custom work, I have the capability to dimension the
> tenon for maximum strength, I cut "custom sized" tenons,
> I can't buy "custom sized" tenons at Rockler and refuse to
> use "standard, one size fits all to the possible detriment of the
> integrity of the project joinery.
A link below to a very brief, but worthy, post on why some of us, who
use the method frequently, do custom sizing of loose tenons with an eye
toward using them in a traditional M&T manner.
You can clearly see that, for the type of joinery required, "standard
sized", purchased tenons would be totally inadvisable in the situation,
not to mention that they would also NOT be available.
You will also want to pay attention to his remarks on how grain effects
And, the guy does some very nice to look at work ...
Our methods are almost identical:
He uses a planer for a slight over sized tenon thickness, and sands with
a block to final thickness; I use a TS, or bandsaw, to rip to a slight
over thickness, and then a quick couple seconds touch on the drum and
belt sander for a precision fit during dry fit testing.
I personally use a fixed stop block, and the eraser end of a pencil (a
la David J. Marks), to safely and quickly cut tenons to length on a
table saw sled; He doesn't use a fixed stop block (I don't think he is
aware of the trick). :)
We both size our mortises and tenons using the same traditional
dimensioning with regard to what has "stood the test of time".
In short, there is a distinct method involved, with time, efficiency,
and, above all, joint integrity as the goal.
Most certainly a method/practice worthy of defending when it's been
discounted as being wasteful of time.
Nice post, Swingman.
There is no doubt - in my mind at least - that loose tenons are great
things. And a slot morising machine would be a thing of joy. For those of
us who really can't justify the cost of same, here is a link to a home brew
one. Quite a good one too.
It was made by the wood gear guy who has been linked to here at various
times. And with good reason, he is a very clever fellow.
Matthias is indeed a clever fellow. If the opportunity had not presented
itself to buy a Multi-Router when most of the cost could be rolled into a
job, I probably would have tried something like his homemade, at least
until the larger Domino came out. Using a router jig for loose tenon
_mortises_ for _small shop production work_ (ie, multiple parts for
multiple identical pieces), like the one I posted in another thread, is
indeed a "time burning distraction" .... and much less accurate to boot.
And they certainly will stand the test of time. There was a furniture
maker here just outside of town that I like to visit with when I saw
him. A great older fella, he was as nice and as humble as can be. He
was pre-internet, so a lot of his learning was self taught or was
learned by discussing problems and solutions with his buddies. He was
extremely talented and had picked up furniture making as a hobby. He
owned few tools and had a very small shop and he never sold a piece of
his fine work. It went to his kids, as wedding gifts to his friend's
kids, etc. His furniture was simple, built to last, and it did. You
could rebuild a truck transmission on one of his dining room tables.
He was a fan of loose tenon construction. He built himself a bench
machine similar to a multi router from plans he got from a woodworking
magazine that allowed him to position and clamp his work as needed to
get his tenons just so. He felt that making the tenon material was
part of the project and allowed him to get the tenon exactly the right
size for the the joint he was creating. Due to the limits of the
straight flute bits he could bet his hands on, all mortises were 1/2,
3/8, and 1/4" radius.
I wasn't that familiar with loose tenon construction when I met him.
Read about it, hadn't seen it in practice. Then, at his shop one day,
he was assembling a table, and the apron from leg to leg was attached
with a white oak tenons that were 1/2" thick, 3" wide by 4" long!
He let me goof around prying, hammering and trying to break (within
reason) his test joint using that same tenon. Impossible.
Impressive. He is gone now, but I would be there isn't a loose joint
on anything he ever built. (By the way, he hated nails and brads. As
punishment for his other fine skills, he couldn't drive a nail to save
his ass, not even with a pilot hole. Screws provided even a larger
challenge, and the idea of <driving> a screw with a drill eluded him
altogether. When I saw him attacking his project with one of those
old 2 foot long Yankee drills and slotted screws I almost fainted...)
The last regional custom furniture show I went to there was a lot of
loose tenon work, in my opinion mostly due to the fact that today's
adhesives can almost negate the need for mechanical fasteners, which
negates the need for the design and cosmetic elements needed to hide
them, which in turn also reduces the skills needed to properly place
and install mechanical structure components like nails and screws and
Oddly, to a man they snorted in disgust at the Domino machine. I
think it was old fashioned snobbery, too much concern for being a
neander, and probably the fact they had never used one. Looking at
their furniture, I could see endless applications for the Domino, but
they preferred a more regressive method of attaching wood, one that
might not be as structurally sound, but made them feel like real
As a sidebar... I wasn't that impressed with about 90% of the work
there. If they did good wood work, they did poor finishing (in some
cases, terrible) and they lowered the appeal of their work
substantially. If they did good finishing (a light even finish on
furniture for me) it showed off every mistake in their work. But the
10% that got it right did some nearly jaw dropping work. If you get a
chance to go to one of those shows, you should.
If I were to do production work, I would get premade tenons and work
around the products offered by Domino, with my designs tailored to the
capabilities of the machine itself. Leon had me convinced of that
when I saw his drawers. But if I was building a few pieces of
furniture, I would be right there with Karl and my old buddy (R.I.P.)
and consider it part of the process to make exactly the tenon
dimension I wanted from the material I wanted.
Just my buck and a half, here.
"Swingman" wrote in message
On 2/2/2013 3:51 PM, Swingman wrote:
So what you are saying is that 500+ years of standard, workmanlike practice
is to be discounted as bad?
Throughout history the tools dictated the size of the mortises which in turn
dictated the size of the tenons.
Handily, Roy has done a number of programs dealing with mortise and tenon
processes... if you don't like Roy, Graham Blackburn's and Frank Klausz's
FWW videos can be substituted. Snips can be found here:
I cannot say for sure the FWW links are public or subscriber links...
Go back to the late 19th century and the Shakers....
http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/video/3200/3213.html ...fixed sized
Go back to the 18th-20th centuries
http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/video/3100/3104.html ...fixed sized
Go back to the 17th century and Roy, Megan and Peter show the same process
on what we "modern" woodworkers would consider to be much cruder stock.
...fixed sized mortises.
Today hollow chisel mortisers and chain mortisers are in common use and
again, they create fixed sized mortises.
Wide tenons (not thickness or length) were typically split into two smaller
tenons thus affording more strength in the mortised stock than afforded by a
wide mortise. Exceptionally thick stock may use two tenons across the
thickness. Both types of double tenons also nearly double the long grain
How can this relationship apply to the floating tenon process? Easy... buy
the readily available tenons that are closest to the theoretical "perfect"
size and adjust the mortise size to yield a proper fit... (Adjustability is
after all one of the claimed advantages of the Multi Router type tools.)
Doing so negates the need to make custom tenons which thus saves time and
money. Once the "adjusted" mortise width is determined and recorded the
Multi Router can be set up over and over again for a given size standard
The furniture and doors built using the old processes were certainly strong
and durable enough if reasonable care in workmanship was undertaken. There
is no reason to expect poorer performance from floating tenons "sized" the
same "standard" way with the advantage of saving time.
Ahhh, *now* I think I see why you and Karl (Swingman) have been talking past
each other for
the last two days -- something which I observed about two posts into your
exchange, but I
kept quiet because while I could see it happening, I had no idea *why* it was
Now I do.
Tools have dictated only the *width* of mortises, never their length or depth --
to correction by Karl) I believe that when he speaks of "custom sized tenons" he
tenons of custom *widths* in a very small number of standard *thicknesses*.
I'll bet that Karl regularly makes floating tenons in 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2"
5/16", and probably no others -- thicknesses that correspond to the diameters of
available router bits -- and his custom tenons are whatever widths and lengths
he needs to
match the lengths and depths, respectively, of his mortises.
See my reply, which should be showing up shortly.
In actuality, it is the _stock dimensions_ which determine the
dimensions of the M&T joint components.
Tools are of various sizes, and the tool used is chosen based on the
dimensions of the stock.
I'm not so sure. :)
There is no "talking past" involved when taking issue with John's
blanket statements that it is a "time burning distraction" to make
custom sized tenons instead of purchasing them, when it is in fact a
time saving, cost effective, and most often necessary requirement in the
application of good joinery principles when using loose tenon joinery.
That, in a nutshell, is all there is to it ... :)
I agree with your side of this completely, Karl -- when I said you
two were "talking past each other" all I meant was that it
appeared to me that the main source of your disagreement was that
neither of you understood what the other meant.
Obviously the length and width of a floating tenon will frequently
be custom-cut. The thickness, not so much -- I'll wager that you
have never made a 13/32"-thick floating tenon, and never will. But
I think that John thought you meant that you would do exactly
I know *I* didn't realize that that's what he thought until last
night. Maybe I'm just slow... but it seemed to me you didn't
realize that at first either. Whence "talking past each other". :-)
Maybe, maybe not. :)
That's why I bought the Multi-Router, to be able to custom size joinery for
the task ... to keep the tail from wagging the custom design dog:
As easy as pie ... :)
Could be.... picking tenon thicknesses appropriate to the stock from within
the available tool sizes has been and is the norm whether those tools use
some kind of chisel or use rotary bits or chains.
Seeing all the similarities between the old ways and the new ways makes it
hard to argue against the tried and true ways of the past even if new
technologies might allow for variants... For example, while it would have
been pretty much unheard of to mortise into end grain before the advent of
rotary tools (i.e., routers) it's common now and allows for loose tenons.
Beyond that the old "rules" are still quite valid.
Regardless, if someone believes it is cost effective from a time and
materials standpoint to make loose tenons that is their choice to make. For
one-off pieces it probably doesn't matter one way or the other due to the
constant machine set up changes involved in such projects. In a commercial
or production shop that is turning out many units of the same item it is a
different story. There specialization and economies of scale rule... and if
the volume was sufficient someone set up for production tenon work would
make whatever size you need!
No, that is demonstrably what _you_ said. :)
Nowhere in my above will you see that by even the most vivid stretch of
imagination, so what was you point is saying? Not to mention that it
most certainly does not appear to be an attempt to ADD anything of value
to the subject as stated.
Not at all... actually STOCK DIMENSIONS ultimately "dictate" the size of
the mortise. Think a bit, instead of being so hell bent on rebuttal. :)
Fact: Tools are not all of one size.
Fact: The dimensions of the stock dictate the tool used, which dictate
the size/thickness of the mortises, none of which are "standard" in
dimension, but are instead _SIZED RELATIVE TO THE STOCK DIMENSIONS_.
And, if you bothered to look at your own links, you would see that Roy
agrees with my correction to your statement above. :)
Not to mention, that the links you presented are, at best, marginally
pertinent to the subject as stated above ... _loose tenon joinery_.
As seen above, you seem to entirely confuse your point with attempts at
rebuttal of something not even mentioned/inferred?
Here is what you are really trying to say ... andwithout the extraneous
filler and misguided rebuttal:
There are time honored guidelines for the "standard" mortise and tenon
joint ("standard" in this sense being NOT a haunched, double, twin,
through, etc. M&T joint), and these guidelines are generally used as
Thickness: The tenon is ideally approximately 1/3rd the thickness of the
rail, the exact size being determined by tool (chisel, router bit, etc.)
used to cut the mortise (see my first above with regard to thickness
being "relatively" sized to stock dimensions)
Width: An integral tenon in a "standard" M&T joint will normally run the
full width of the rail; a LOOSE TENON can obviously not be sized in
width to the full width of the rail, therefore MUST BE "CUSTOM SIZED"
RELATIVE TO THE DIMENSION OF THE RAIL STOCK.
Depth: the depth of a stopped mortise is approximately 3/4 quarters the
width of the leg or stile, and therefore MUST BE "CUSTOM SIZED" RELATIVE
TO THE DIMENSION OF THE RAIL STOCK."
See how much more succinct, correct, and easy that is .... leaving
nothing to rebut ... except for someone who just wants to argue/impress
with Google links instead of their own words. :)
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