Episode No. 17 Joinery Part 1

June 13, 2006

Thanks for checking out another episode of the show, it’s really great to see all the listeners coming back or visiting for the first time. This episode is the first half of a two part episode. I thought about making one long show, but I think too much information all at once is just too much. Joinery is a very vital part of the design process and when used correctly can add a lot to a piece. Just as the right wood species can make a big difference between a simple everyday utilitarian object and a family heirloom, the right joinery can do the same. Not to mention that choosing the wrong type of joinery could also result in a piece that falls apart when put into use. So it’s vital that we understand our choices and are aware of their limitations. Just like a certain style of furniture appeals to certain people, certain types of joinery appeal to certain woodworkers. When it comes to joinery, just like in many other aspects of woodworking, beauty is in the eye of the woodworker.

For today’s episode I turned to a book that has been a valuable resource in my shop. The book is called ‘CLASSIC JOINTS WITH POWER TOOLS’ written by Yeung Chan a leading furniture designer, craftsman and teacher. Published by Lark Books. Yeung Chan broke down the various joints in his book into eleven categories covering the most basic joinery to the some rather advanced types, not to mention the various ways to make them with several different tools, so let’s take a look at them.

The first joint we’ll cover is the butt joint – this is the most basic joint in the book. It’s made up of two boards, butted up againest each other, hence the term butt joint. The butt joint can be either an edge to edge, an edge to face or even an mitered edge to mitered edge. The strongest butt joint is made when the grains run parallel with each other thus long grain to long grain. The best feature of the butt joint is that if you can match the grains of the two boards and are able to mill them straight and flat, the joint line can disappear and give the illusion of one wide board.

The next joint to talk about is actually a modified version of the butt joint it’s the tongue and groove joint. The basic form of the tongue and groove joint is the edge to edge construction. Proportions are very important in making the joint strong, as a rule of thumb it’s best to make the tongue and its corresponding groove about 1/3rd the width of the stock you’re using. For example, 3/4 inch stock would look best with a 1/4 inch tongue and groove, also it’s important that the depth of the tongue and it’s groove should be the same as the width. So that same 1/4 inch wide tongue should also be 1/4 inch long. The joint should fit snug but not so tight that it splits the corresponding groove, depending on the application of the components a snug fit maybe all you need, glueing the joint could be an option rather than a requirement.

Next up is the rabbet joints. Cut either on the end or along an edge, the joint is essentially a step cut made into one edge while the adjoining edge is then fit into the step cut. By having the stepped cut where the corresponding component can rest a much stronger joint is created. The basic form of the rabbet joint is the corner rabbet, one end or edge is step cut to accept the entire thickness of the mating board. The stepped cut provides a lot of surface for applying glue and thus can be a strong joint.

Thanks for listening and sending me your questions and comments, I greatly appreciate it. Until next week, take care and straight grains and sharp blades.

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