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Mortise And Tenon Frame Joints

 

Mortise-And-Tenon joints are an extremely old construction technique that has stood the test of time and is still being used today. Examples of this ancient joint is found in Chinese furniture thousands of years old. It can produce joints that are extremely strong, and the technique can be scaled up or down in size with great success.

The joint has two basic components: the "male" part of the joint is called the "tenon" and the "female" member (the hole cut into the wood) is the "mortise". The joining of these two pieces is usually made permanent by gluing, pinning (doweled), or wedged. A mortise can be open on one end (exposed or through) or completely hidden (blind). The tenon is typically longer than its width.

Tenon Length

If the tenon is to be full-length, it should be wedged from the exposed side. If it is not to be visible, it should extend approximately half-way into the stile, or three-quarters if the stile is narrow.

Tenon Width

The optimal tenon width is the full width of the rail, however this leads to problems with wood movement for wide rails. Multiple tenons, equally spaced, produce a design that retains the tenon's strength yet resists against wood movement by distributing the stress.

Tenon Thickness

If cutting the mortise and tenon by hand, the mortise walls and the tenon should all be of equal size (one-third the stock thickness). This is to prevent accidental splitting of the boards during the construction of the mortise or tenon. If cutting the mortise and tenon by machine, very little stress is applied and therefore a tenon thickness of one-half the stock's thickness can be used. which gives equal strength to the tenon and the mortise walls once the joint is glued.

Types of mortise and tenon

A mortise is a cavity cut into a timber to receive a tenon. There are several kinds of mortise:

Open mortise – a mortise that has only three sides. (See bridle joint).

Stub mortise – a shallow mortise, in which depth depends on the size of the timber; also a mortise that does not go through the workpiece (as opposed to a "through mortise").

Through mortise – a mortise that passes entirely through a piece.

Wedged half-dovetail – a mortise in which the back is wider, or taller, than the front, or opening. The space for the wedge initially allows room for the tenon to be inserted; the presence of the wedge, after the tenon has been engaged, prevents its withdrawal. It is sometimes called a "suicide" joint, since it is a "one-way trip".

Through wedged half-dovetail – a wedged half-dovetail mortise that passes entirely through the piece.

There are several kinds of tenon:

Stub tenon - a short tenon; depth depends on the size of the timber; also a tenon that is shorter than the width of the mortised piece so the tenon does not show (as opposed to a "through tenon").

Through tenon - a tenon that passes entirely through the piece of wood it is inserted into, being clearly visible on the back side.

Loose tenon - a tenon that is a separate part of the joint, as opposed to a fixed tenon that is an integral part of one of the pieces to be joined.

Biscuit tenon - a thin oval shape piece of wood, looks like a biscuit [2]

Tusk tenon - a kind of mortise and tenon joint that uses a wedge-shaped key to hold the joint together.

Teasel tenon (also spelled teazle)- a term used for the tenon on top of a jowled or gunstock post, which is typically received by the mortise in the underside of a tie beam. A common element of the English tying joint.

Top tenon - the tenon that occurs on top of a post.

Hammer-headed tenon - a method of forming a tenon joint when the shoulders cannot be tightened with aclamp.

Half shoulder tenon- An asymmetric tenon with a shoulder on one side only. A common use is in framed, ledged and braced doors.

A haunched stub tenon corner joint

A modern feather tenon joint (primarily called a loose tenon)

  A traditional through, wedged, mortise and tenon joint

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