Thursday, March 24, 2011

Biscuits vs. Mortise & Tenon

It's always interesting to get into a discussion with other woodworkers when it comes to joinery.  Some (like me) stay with the traditional methods even though they are much more time consuming.  Others will employ the quickest way possible to get the job done.  Don't get me wrong, I'll use biscuits on built in furniture too, especially if there's no chance the unit will be moved but that mortise and tenon just can't be beat when building chairs and tables -- it's a time proven joint.
I use a combination of power tools and hand tools.  I prefer to cut the mortise with my hollow chisel mortiser.  The resulting cut still requires a bit of chisel work in the bottom to square up the sides.  Although I had my students doing the tenons completely by hand, something I've done lots and lots of, my choice these days is to cut the shoulders on the table saw with a sled and then use a tenoning jig.  To cut the tenon I use the outside blades from a dado set with spacers between them.  This way I can cut the entire tenon with one pass.  They are ever so slightly oversize which allows me to use a rabbet block plane to get the fit I'm after.

Tenoning Jig with Two Blades to cut Tenon

Hand Tools used to fit Tenon 

I won't deny that using biscuits to accomplish this would probably have taken less than a fourth of the time but being a traditionalist and also knowing that this frame will never separate makes it well worth the extra effort for me.  I assembled the frame this evening, tomorrow I'll drill the holes for the Ebony pegs, glue them in and begin the process of cutting out the stepped recess house the stained glass.

End of the Day, See the Quarter Sawn Rays?

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