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Thread: Three Quick Mortise and Tenon Questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Three Quick Mortise and Tenon Questions

    This is my first time doing them and I though i should ask a couple questions before finishing them off.

    First am I correct from what I've picked up from various places that the tightness should be about where you need a hammer to tap it in under its own weight, aka let the hammer do the work and dont try and actully hammer it in.

    Second if I plan on shooting in 2-4 brads along with the use of glue that I would be able to make the fit tight but able to be pushed in by hand or should I still keep it to haveing to tap it in.

    Third, better to brad when the glue is wet or set?


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    I shoot for a tight hand fit but perfection eludes me at times ;-). If I have to give it mallet tap or two that's OK with me. I put glue inside the mortise as opposed to on the tenon. I clamp for at least 30 - 40 minutes but leave the clamps on overnight if it won't slow me down. I don't use brads.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Oklahoma City, OK

    Remember that what you're going for is to increase the gluing surface. If you make the fit so tight that you have to hammer it in you'll most likely squeeze most of the glue out. Like Glenn mentioned, what I aim for with my mortises is a snug fit. Seeing as how I'm still using a drill press and chisel to make my mortises, that snug fit eludes me on most of them as well. I'd say as long as the joint doesn't wobble that's tight enough. Personally I don't use brads on a mortise. I believe I've seen someone make a mortise with a dowel going through it but not brads.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    falcon heights, minnesota
    after making a few hundred mortise and tenon joints, i would agree that snug, but not overly tight fit is best. that's why i carefully work up the tenon to fit the mortise. also, if you need a hammer to get it together on a test fit, you'll be needing one to get it apart, possibly damaging the wood. how deep a mortise are we talking about? is it something structural, or just to keep spindles in place? for me, if structural, not less than a one inch tenon, if just keeping spindles in place, usually for me its 3/8". if you're thinking about using a compressor driven nail gun and wire brads, you'll be better off not doing it. been there, done that, there is no predicting what direction they'll go, i had a couple make turns and exit the lumber (darned embarrassing). if i really feel i need to secure it, i'll drill and plug with a 1/4" dowel. hope all this helps.
    benedictione omnes bene

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    i try for about 1/16+ deeper on my mortise then the tenon and you dont need a ton of glue. if you have to much glue you will NEVER get the joint to tighten up and seat good.

  6. #6
    Snug not tight. All will agree that if you have to pound them in then you also squeegie of the glue as it goes in. Not to say a final impact to seat after glue is applied is not too tight. In school I was always taught that the tenon should be able to be pushed in by hand and yet, not fall out if turned over.
    I try to follow that rule. As for glueing, I thinly brush glue onto the tenon (very thin coat) then a wet coat inside the mortice (always allow room for the glue at the bottom of the mortice) This assures complete contact over the entire joint yet helps in preventing squeeze-out.

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