|Joinery Tips - Furniture Buying Tips
My "Funk & Wagnall" describes "Joinery" as...
"1. the art or skill of a joiner. 2. The articles
constructed by a joiner."
That doesn't help much.
Joinery is the method by which pieces of wood are attached
to each other.
The Joinery just in the construction of a piece of
furniture can be an indication of its' quality.
The manner in which components of a piece are attached
to each other reflects the strength of the piece as well as its' appearance.
A piece assembled with simple butt joints is less
likely to hold up under years of use than one that uses mitered, dowel or
tongue and groove joints.
While most methods of joinery present an almost
seamless method of construction, some joints, such as dovetails are used as
a decorative feature of the piece.
Common types of furniture joinery:
Butt Joint: (Ok, I can hear you
snickering...let's just keep the cracks to ourselves)
A butt joint is a simple method of
connecting two pieces of wood with the square end of one piece being placed
against the side of another. The two pieces form a right angle and are
joined by nails, screws, glue or a dowel, etc.
Cross Lapped Joint: A
rectangular section is cut out of each of the two pieces that are to be
The recess is cut from each piece at the point where
they intersect. The recessed surfaces interlock and must be equal in depth
so that when the two pieces are joined they are flush. (easier said than
Dado Joint: Connects two pieces of wood by
cutting a groove in one piece of wood which is equal to the width of the
second piece. The second piece is then inserted into the groove.
Dovetail Joint: Connect two pieces of
wood by flaring the end of one piece to conform to the shape which is cut
out of the second piece.
If the end of the flared piece does not extend all the
way through the second piece it is an invisible joint and called a stopped
or lapped dovetail joint. This method is commonly used on drawers and
cabinets. A dovetail joint can also be used to join several pieces together,
with each piece having a flared end and a cut end.
You cannot just push one piece into the other...one
must be placed above the other and then slid into place, forming a type of
Doweled Joint: Matching small holes are cut
into two pieces of wood. The two pieces are then joined by inserting small,
round pegs into the holes of one piece so that they line
up with the holes in the piece to be joined. The pieces are then usually glued.
Miter Joint: Two pieces of wood are
cut at a forty-five degree angle and the two beveled edges are placed end to
end. They are usually connected by glue, nails or screws. Take a look
at your door and window frames...they are mitered in the corners.
Mortise and Tenon: One piece
is called the mortise and the other is the tenon (that sounds logical).
The mortise is a shaped
recess, and the tenon is a carved projection, usually rectangular. The tenon
is inserted into the mortise in the same way a peg is inserted into a hole.
The two pieces are generally secured by drilling a hole through the two
pieces and inserting a dowel.
Rabbeted (rebated) Joint: A groove
is cut into one piece and a shaped protrusion (tongue) is cut on the second piece.
The protrusion of one fits into the groove of the other. The groove and
tongue must be
cut to match. Very similar to tongue and groove.
The rabbet joint is frequently used in cabinetwork,
although higher quality pieces may feature a mitered rabbet joint,
which produces a neater appearance.
Scarf Joint: Two pieces of wood are
joined by two metal plates with holes.
The two pieces of wood are butted, end
to end, and the plates are placed over the joint on each side of the piece.
The metal plates sandwich the two pieces of wood, in effect, splicing them
together. The plates are
attached to the wood by nails or screws.
The plates could also be pieces of wood.
Splined Joint: Grooves are cut in the
ends of each piece of wood so that they line up. A small strip of wood
called a spline is inserted into each groove to join the two pieces of wood.
Tongue and Groove: Two
pieces are joined by cutting an edge or shape on one piece of wood which
fits into a groove cut in the other. The tongue and the groove must be