An Introduction to Woodworking: Joinery
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An Introduction to Woodworking: Joinery

One of the hardest skills to learn for the novice woodworker is how to make good solid joints. The success or failure of any woodworking project hinges on the woodworker's ability to join the pieces together to form solid joints. This skill is known as joinery. The best approach to learning joinery is the hands on approach. The project described in this article will allow you to master the most common of all joinery techniques, the forming of Butt Joints, mitered joints and lap joints.

One of the hardest skills to learn for the novice woodworker is how to make good solid joints. The success or failure of any woodworking project hinges on the woodworker's ability to join the pieces together to form solid joints. This skill is known as joinery. The best approach to learning joinery is the hands on approach. The project described in this article will allow you to master the most common of all joinery techniques, the forming of Butt Joints, mitered joints and lap joints.

There are many different type of traditional wood joints to be learned and mastered. Those joints can be classified as:

  • Butt Joint, joints which are formed when one piece of wood is simply butted up against another piece. These joints are the weakest of all joints, but they are also the easiest to make, so we will start out with a project that uses this type of joinery.
  • Mitered Joints are similar to Butt Joints and almost as easy to make except they require the ends of the pieces to be joined to be cut at 45 degree angles rather than at a 90 degree angle.
  • Lap Joints are still more advanced and require the ends of the pieces to be cut in such a way that the pieces actually overlap one another.
  • Box Joints, which are also called “Finger Joints”, found in box construction, are made by cutting notches in the ends of the boards to be joined to form multiple over lapping joints.
  • Dovetail Joints are similar to Box Joints except that the sides of the fingers are cut at an angle so the two pieces being joined actually interlock because of the diagonal cuts of the overlapping pieces.
  • Dado Joints are joints that are formed by cutting a slot across the grain of one of the pieces using a Dado Blade Set on a table saw or with a router. The second piece then fits in this groove, sitting perpendicular to the first piece.
  • Groove Joint is the same as a Dado Joint except that the groove is with the grain instead of across the grain.
  • Tongue and groove joints are similar to the Dado Joint and the Groove joint except that there is a groove cut in one piece not quite the width of the thickness of the second piece. A tongue is formed on the end of the second piece by removing wood from both the top and bottom surfaces. These joints are also sometime referred to as “Spline Joints.”
  • Mortice and Tenon Joints are formed by cutting a stub on the end of one piece which fits in a hole cut in the second piece. The mortice and tenon joint is the hallmark of Frame and Panel construction and of Mission Style Furniture construction.

The strength of these joints increase as you progress up the list as does the skill required to make them increases.

The Hands-On Approach to Learning

There are several different ways to learn joinery. One approach has the student simply making the joints over and over again until they have mastered the joint. It is a time proven method that works in the traditional vocational school environment, but for the hobbyist, I prefer the approach that teaches the skill set while allowing the hobbyist to produce something like this dog feeding station.

The Canine Cafe

The Canine Cafe is an easy project even for the beginner and your handiwork will be loved by your canine buddies. I actually found the plans for this project in an issue of Handy Magazine so I am not going to explain how to build it here, Handy does a much better job than I could in the space available to me here. You can access the plans and step by step instructions in pdf format by clicking here. I have built several of these Canine Cafes to give as gifts. Why not build one for your canine companions?

 

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Comments (7)

It could work as a Kitty Cafe too!

I wanted to ask you a question, but my questions are reduced so I cannot. Thank you for your great article.

What wonderful points of education. My husband loves woodworking, I am pointing him to this article. Thank you Jerry. 

I vote for the kitty cafe!  You explained this very well but it's not something I'd try.  I'm out of votes (recommendations) as I guess we're only getting 4 now.

This is an important piece. My dad was a jack of all trades. He built 3 houses in my lifetime. I helped him sometimes.

Excellent article, Jerry, wish I had more aglity to work with my hands more. Was always jealous of the kids in Public School who had woodworking. Catholic School did not provide these things!

Another winning article, my freind.

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