3 Steps to Long-Lasting Woodwork Attachment

Here's how the woodworkers at Sweet Timber Frames in Mount Desert, Maine, create mortise-and-tenon joints.

March 01, 2009

Woodworkers create mortise-and-tension joints
A simple mortise-and-tenon joint can be finished in less than an hour, but more complicated ones may take up to four hours.

More than 1,000 years old, timberframe construction is based on the mortise and tenon, a method of connecting timbers without metal plates, nails or bolts. The mortise is a pocket or recess cut into the wood; the tenon is the projecting end of another piece of wood that fits into the mortise.

Here's how the woodworkers at Sweet Timber Frames in Mount Desert, Maine, create mortise-and-tenon joints:

  1. The mortise is laid out and cut with a hollow chisel mortising machine. The machine removes most of the wood from the pocket. The rest is cleaned out by hand with a 2-inch framing chisel.
  2. The tenon is laid out and cut with a Japanese hand saw, then pared along guidelines using a hand chisel or rabbet block plane.
  3. Holes are drilled in both timbers for the wooden peg that will attach them. The tenon peg holes are offset or drawbored to lock the timbers together tightly.

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