How to Make Timber Joints - Learn how to Make Bridle Joints and Mortice and Tenon Joints

Summary: A guide covering how to make various types of timber joint including bridle joints, mortice and tenon and dowelled and wedged mortice and tenon joints. We show you how to measure your cuts accurately so that your joints are square and flush, what different types of each joint there are and what tools you will need to successfully make each one.

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For our entire timber joints section we are very grateful to for allowing the use of their material. All images and text are © V. Ryan  2002

Bridle Joints

These two ‘bridle joints’ are used when a light frame is needed. for example, a picture frame. One part of the joint fits into the other part and is glued permanently in position.

plain bridle joint angle bridle joint

Below are two examples of ‘mortice and tenon joints’. These are used when making tables or cabinets and they are very strong when glued together. There are many different types and a larger feature on this type of joint appears below.

plain mortice and tenon wedged mortice and tenon


The common mortice and tenon jointThe common mortice and tenon joint is normally used in the construction of tables and chairs. The joint is reliable is a suitable glue such as PVA or cascamite is used. For more information re cascamite keep scrolling down. The joint seen opposite can be strengthened in a number of ways including the use of dowell rod (seen below). The problem associated with the basic mortice and tenon is that over time the joint can come apart especially if it is expected to hold the weight of a person - such as the joints of a chair.

This is another example of a mortice and tenon joint. However, in this example a piece of dowel rod is drilled through the mortice and the tenon. This helps keep the joint together even when it is under great pressure. This is used as a joint on chairs and other pieces of furniture so that the joints do not break apart when extra weight is applied.

dowelled jointsTo the right is another way in which dowels can be used to form a joint. Modern pieces of furniture are often jointed in this way. It is a permanent method but it is not the strongest joint as the parts can eventually pull apart, especially as the joint becomes old. Modern glues that are very strong have meant that this joint is often used to quickly fix parts together.

If the mortice and tenon joint is to used as part of a frame a secret or sloping haunch is used. The tenon does not show on the outer side of the joint and it gives greater gluing area, adding to the overall strength of the joint.

wedged mortice and tenonWEDGED MORTICE AND TENON
This is a very strong and attractive joint. The tenon has two slots and when it is pushed into the mortice wedges are tapped into position. The wedges hold the joint together firmly and they also give the joint an interesting look.

DIY Book: Basic Carpentry DIY Book: Home Carpentry


plain mortice and tenonThe construction of a plain mortice and tenon joint joint is shown opposite. This type of joint has a wide range of uses and is particularly useful when manufacturing furniture. Several types of mortice and tenon joint exist. The marking out and cutting of all the mortice and tenon joints are based in this simple joint. Below is a stage by stage account of the marking and cutting of the mortice part of the joint.

The mortice gauge is a special type of marking gauge and it is used to mark wood so that a mortice can be cut into it. The diagram to the above represents a typical mortice and tenon joint. The mortice is marked out using the mortice gauge although it must be set to the correct size of mortice chisel very carefully. A mortice chisel is then used to remove the waste wood.

The mortice gauge is normally made from a hardwood such as rose wood with brass being used for the parts that slide along the stem.

Animated Mortice gauge
Animated Mortice Gauge


Marking out a morticeSTEP ONE:
The distance between the fixed spur and the adjustable spur is set so that it matches the width of the mortice chisel. The width of the mortice chisel should match the width of the mortice to be cut in the wood.

Marking out a morticeSTEP TWO:
A try square and a marking knife are used mark the lines at the top and bottom of the mortice.

Marking out a morticeSTEP THREE:
The stock of the mortice gauge is pressed against the side of the wood. It is then pushed along the wood until the mortice is marked out correctly.

The mortice chisel is then used to break the surface of the waste wood by gently tapping the handle with a mallet.
The waste wood is then slowly removed, this time, by applying more force to the handle of the chisel with the mallet. The waste is removed until the entire mortice hole has been cut.
Marking out a mortice

Chisel amimation by V.Ryan    


Chisel amimation by V.Ryan


Need More Information About Timber Joints?

Then visit our other four timber joint projects:

Timber Joints 1 - Halved Joints
Timber Joints 2 - The Tenon
Timber Joints 3 - Dovetail Joints
Timber Joints 4 - Finger Or Comb Joint
Timber Joints 5 - Shoulder / Rebate / Lapped Joint

Alternatives to Timber Joints

Successfully creating the joints detailed above can take a certain level of practice and skill which sometimes is just not practical. In these situations there are products available today that take care of this for you. These product enable you to simply cut your timber to length and slot it into a "ready-made joint".

If you would like to find out a little more about these types of joint, we recently used one particular product to make a work bench - see how we did it in our work bench project.

Don't fancy doing this project yourself? We work with Checkatrade to ensure that we recommend only reliable and trustworthy tradesmen.

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