*** This post is courtesy of Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench ***
The mortise and tenon joint is timeless. Classic. Functional. And, not as difficult to cut as you might imagine.
Oh, sure, if you have never cut one before, you might be scared senseless to start. I mean, don’t you need a shop full of fancy, expensive jigs and unitasking machines? Think about Norm Abram of the New Yankee Workshop. He cut mortises with special fixtures for his drill press or his dedicated hollow chisel mortiser. And, he had his special table saw jig that cut tenons on boards standing on their ends. If you build a lot of projects with numerous mortises and tenons, this is a good way to go. These tools offer a great deal of flexibility and convenience when cranking out these joints all day. But, I would contest that you have one of the best mortise AND tenon cutting systems in your plunge router. Equipped with the right kind of bit, these babies can crank out tight-fitting joinery with little effort.
For mortising, I like to equip my router with an up-spiral bit. Those bits resemble drill bits, with flutes that can eject sawdust from the joint you are excavating, giving you smooth walled mortises of a consistent width and depth. There are many ways you can go about guiding your router to give you the desired results. Here are just a few:
With a template. If you rout a slot in a piece of MDF or plywood at a width that can accept a router bushing, it will guide your router as you cut away. I usually cut a 3/4″ slot to accept a like-sized bushing, then use a 1/2″, 3/8” or 1/4″ bit to cut the appropriately sized mortise.
With a center-finding guide. Special base plates with carefully aligned bearings automatically center your bit on the work piece, locating the mortise in the ideal location for maximum strength.
With your edge guide. By using your edge guide, you can carefully place the bit anywhere along the piece, giving maximum adjustability.
With a table mounted router. Flip your router into a router table, adjust the fence to place the mortise where you want it and lower the work onto the bit and using stop blocks to control the final length of the mortise.
The tenon can be made just as easily with your router. You could cut it on a router table by pushing your work past a straight cutting bit, which is certainly a viable option. However, once I tried a four-faced tenon cutting jig – WOW. That has become my favorite way to cut tenons. Fast, accurate and repeatable.
The jig is very simple to build – it has a flat top piece with a window cut into the top for the router to plunge through. There is also a vertical fin that gets dadoed into the bottom of this top piece. And, finally, there’s a fence that the board you are routing sits against.
Set the depth on a rabbeting bit, and start the router. The length of the tenon is set by the plunge depth of the router, and the depth of cut is set by the guide bearing at the bottom of the bit. Jim McCleary of Proven Woodworking has an outstanding page featuring plans for the jig and videos of how it works.
Yes, the mortise and tenon is a great joint. And, now that you know how to cut both parts with your plunge router, what are you waiting for? Get out there and build!
*** Specials thanks to Tom Iovino, a true Shop Monkey, for this post. He will be providing posts on a monthly basis for Eagle America, check back again soon. ***
I was reading a thread on Router Forums earlier today and stumbled across a post from Danny. In short, he said this: “I’m making a bunch of candy trays and chip trays for Christmas presents, and the wife decided I need to make them in the holiday shapes using templates from Eagle.” Want to see his handy work?
Well done Danny! We know there be lots of smiles on people’s faces when they open those presents on Christmas morning. Any way you can email us some pictures of those warm smiles!?! If you are motivated by Danny’s work, it is not too late to get started. You still have a good three weeks to make some bowls and trays of your own. Just click the image below to see our vast selection of router bowl & tray templates as well as the router bits and supplies that you will need to get the job done right.
It is holiday gift making time, can you feel the excitement in the air? Seriously, as a woodworker you have a talent that lends itself well to making all forms of Christmas gifts. Whether you are making Keepsake Boxes, Picture Frames, Wooden Signs or Holiday Bowls and Trays, you will be making some neat projects over the coming weeks. However, do you do anything to catalog your woodworks of art? Do you keep a portfolio of what you have made? If not, you should.
You put a lot of hours, sweat and sawdust into those projects. Once you give them away or sell them you don’t have any record of your accomplishments or any tangible means to track your growth as a craftsman. So even though you are very comfortable with a router, router bits, your table saw, band saw, scroll saw and hand tools you need to get very comfortable with your camera. Who would have thought that a camera could be a woodworking tool?!?!
The folks over at ThisIsCarpentry.com recently posted a very excellent read titled, “Photographing Your Work”. Please make the time to read it, it is very well done and includes a lengthy lesson including explanations on:
- How Cameras Work
- Camera Controls
- Using a Camera
- Critical Accessories
- Flash & Lighting
So as you get to work on your loved ones wish lists in the coming weeks, maybe you should consider adding a new camera to yours!
My son recently married a wonderful woman this summer. As my son was telling me about the wedding arrangements, he asked me if I would make them something special to put envelopes and cards in at the wedding reception. I offered them a wishing well I made 26 years ago for my wedding. No, they said, it seems wishing wells, gift wrapped boxes and painted mail boxes were what everyone was using and they wanted something different.
After spending what seemed to be hours trying to come up with something different and out of the ordinary, I came across a wedding card box made from picture frames on the internet. I could make this, only with a few improvements. The hard part was getting the approval of my wife and future daughter in-laws mother. To my surprise, they loved the idea, and it was time to get started. Just one thing, I wanted to keep it a secret from the bride and groom until they walked into the reception hall.
After a trip to the local Amish lumber yard for some oak boards, and the local craft store to purchase four inexpensive picture frames (they came with the glass, photo mat, and frame back I needed- cheaper than buying them separately) I was ready to get busy.
I started out making my own picture frames, something I have never done before. The box has four vertical supports on the corners, made in two pieces. I routed a slot in the center of each piece so when I glued them together they made a hole for a threaded rod to pass through. Then I cut a dado on both sides of each one to allow the picture frames to slide into them.
I attached the threaded rods to the base, slid the vertical supports onto the threaded rods, and slid the picture frames in place. Then I drilled a counter bore to fit a cap nut to hold everything together and conceal how it is opened. It can all be taken apart, and the picture frames can be used separately. Finally, I routed a groove in the bottom to attach a lazy susan so the box would spin around and the pictures on all four sides could be seen.
The box was beautiful and everybody was pleased with my design and effort. Now the real test, what would the Bride and Groom think?
At the reception, I stood at the door with my wife and the bride’s parents greeting the guests as they came in, listening to the comments and complements on my box. However, I was waiting for the Bride and Grooms comments. As they arrived at the reception they saw the card box and thought it was amazing. They were surprised and happy with what I came up with.
That’s how my woodworking skills became part of my son and daughter-in-laws wedding.
Steve Province – Ohio
You may or may not know who Hanna Montana is but if you have children between the ages of 5-15 or watch television you have probably heard her name. So why is her name popping up on a woodworking blog? The reason is simple, ROUTER BITS!!??
What ?? Let me explain, a woodworker called us and he needed a few router bits that we had in stock and in talking to him he explained that he was making some changes to a piano that is going to be used in the new Hannah Montana movie. How neat is that!
He offered to send a few pictures of how the project was moving along, I said great because my 6 year old daughter loves Hannah Montana so he sent me a few to show her. Above you can see the rough cutout made to the body of the piano and then the finished cut that was made with one of our Eagle America router bits.
One of our customers recently showed us exactly how creative and resourceful you can be with a router. He used it to…carve a bowling ball! We love it when someone uses our router bits to make a piece of art. What do you think of his handy work?