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Furniture Joinery

Furniture Joinery
An example of a dovetail joint

Here we will look at a list of the most common joinery techniques. As you will see below, there are many different ways to join two pieces of wood together, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages which are also discussed. These joints will be visible in the furniture in your home and garden. So have a look at the chairs, tables, doors, cabinets inside your home or the garden furniture or timber gates outside your home and see which joinery techniques are being used.
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Butt Joint:

The butt joint is the simplest but also the weakest type of joint. It is created by simply butting two boards together (hence the name) and attaching them using glue or with a nail or screw for extra strength. This joinery application is usually used to glue narrow boards side to side to form one wide panel, such as a cabinet door or a table top. Butt joints are not commonly used in furniture construction, due to their weaknesses and for their lack of any obvious aesthetic quality.

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Box Joint:

The box joint, also called a finger joint or comb joint, connects two boards at the corners. It is made by cutting a set of complementary rectangular cuts in two pieces of wood, which are then glued. It is very strong and is often utilized in boxes, such as blanket chests and jewelery boxes, because of its decorative look. The strength of a finger joint comes from the long-grain to long-grain contact between the fingers, which provides a solid gluing surface. The number of contact points also allows for more gluing surface as opposed to a butt joint or a rabbet joint.

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Dovetail Joint:

The dovetail is one of the strongest, most beautiful, and most complex joinery techniques that woodworkers employ. It is one of the strongest joints because of how the side piece prevents the front piece from ever being pulled, due to their trapezoidal shape away and because the greater number of contact points also allows for more gluing surface. A series of pins cut to extend from the end of one board interlock with a series of tails cut into the end of another board. There are many variations of dovetails, such as a half-blind, through, and sliding dovetail.

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Mortise & Tenon Joint:

The mortise and tenon joint is the one of the strongest and most widely used joinery methods in woodworking. A mortise is a cavity cut into a timber to receive a tenon which is a projection on the end of another timber for insertion into the mortise. The joint may be glued, pinned, or wedged to lock it in place. In its basic form it is both simple and strong although there are a multitude of applications and variations that are employed throughout woodworking. This joint is a staple in the building of chairs, tables, cabinet doors, and paneling.

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Dowel Joint:

The doweled joint is merely a butt joint that uses wooden dowels (A dowel is a solid cylindrical rod, usually made of wood) to help align and strengthen the bond between two boards. Often times a doweled joint is made into a very visually appealing joint by passing the dowels completely through the side piece allowing them to show through and sanding them flush with the surface. A well-made dowel joint is as strong as a mortise and tenon joint.

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Half-Lap Joint:

A half-lap joint is a very strong and very visually appealing joint which is merely the process of joining two pieces of wood together by removing half of the width from each board so that they completely overlap each other when joined. They are quick and easy to make and provide reasonable strength through good long grain to long grain gluing surface. The shoulders provide some resistance to diagonal distortion caused by twisting or pressure. They may also be reinforced with dowels to totally eliminate any distortion.

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Frame & Panel Joint:

The frame and panel joint is the primary method of constructing cabinet doors. Each panel consists of two vertical stiles running the complete height of the door, two rails that run the overall width of the door minus the width of the two stiles, and a center panel. This joinery technique creates a large panel that is unaffected by environmental changes, because the center panel floats between the rails and stiles, and is able to expand and contract without affecting the other pieces. There are hundreds of different router details that can be used on the rails, stiles, and doors, to create a look as fancy or as simple as desired.

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Mitre Joint:

The miter joint is a simple and easy way to connect any two pieces of wood together at any angle necessary. Simply cut each edge to half the overall angle, usually at a 45 degree angle, to form a corner or 90 degree angle, and join together using glue, nails, or screws. The miter joint, like the butt joint, is not very strong, but is quick and easy to make. In order to strengthen a mitre joint a spline joint can be added. Common applications of the mitre joint include picture frames and moulding.

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Rebate and Dado Joints:

Rebate and Dado joints are simple joints that create an incredibly strong bond by inserting one piece of wood, a reabte, into a groove, a Dado, in another piece of wood. In addition to increasing the glue surface, the rabbet also provides support and alignment for the two adjoining pieces. This joint is the backbone of cabinet box and bookcase construction. Just about any variation of this joint can be cut with either a table saw (with dado blade) and/or a router (with dado jig).

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Spline Joint:

A spline joint is achieved by inserting a strip of wood into two corresponding grooves cut into two matching boards and is rally an extended biscuit joint. A spline joint is also similar to a tongue and groove joining system. The difference is that the spline is essentially forming a tongue for both grooves. It is often traditionally joined with glue. A spline joint is often used to strengthen a butt or mitre joint and can add a lot of visual appeal by using contrasting colours of woods.


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