Whether you are constructing a simple coffee table or creating your own cabinets and cupboards, it is essential to have a fundamental understanding of joinery. Joinery involves various techniques for connecting wooden or board pieces together, and there is a wide range of joint types that can be utilized during the assembly process.
If you are unsure about which joint method is suitable for your project due to the numerous joining options available, we have gathered a list of the most frequently used joinery methods. This compilation aims to assist you, particularly if you are a beginner in the field of DIY and woodworking. It includes detailed explanations on where and how these joint methods should be implemented when constructing furniture or undertaking a project.
Most Basic Joint
A butt joint is a type of joint in which two pieces of material are joined together by placing their ends or edges flush against each other.
We will start with the simplest type of joinery, which is the humble butt joint. This joint is widely employed when beginner DIY and woodworking projects are undertaken, as it is the most popular method for joining pieces together. However, it should be noted that the butt joint is also one of the least durable joints.
To achieve a butt joint, one piece is overlapped with another by butting one end against the other. Pilot holes and screws are then used to secure the overlapping section to the piece positioned at the back.
Butt joints should only be used in projects that do not subject the article being made to any stress, or in projects where additional reinforcement will be added.
The term “Mitred Butt Joint” refers to a type of joint in which two pieces of material are joined together by cutting a 45-degree angle in each end, allowing them to fit precisely against each other.
Mitred butt or bevel joints involve cutting the two end pieces at an angle and then connecting them. Such joints are commonly used for creating decorative wooden boxes and projects that demand an ornamental finishing touch.
If you wish to incorporate mitred joints into your projects, you will need to acquire a Compound Mitre Saw, adjustable Table Saw, or Router along with suitable router bits for cutting the angled edges.
Common Woodworking Joints
A method of joining two pieces of material by overlapping them and fastening them together through the overlapping section is referred to as a lap joint.
A lap or half-lap joint involves cutting out a rebate on both sections to make the pieces overlap. This type of joint is considered reasonably strong because wood glue is used to reinforce the join.
To ensure a neat fit, stock is removed equally on both sections of both pieces to be joined.
Muntins and mullions are often assembled using lap joints in window frames.
The joint known as the Cross-Lap Joint.
The cross-lap joint involves placing a piece of wood on top of another and connecting them together. Similar to a butt joint, the lap joint is not known for its strength, but it is commonly used for overlapping or crossing two pieces of wood.
A dado joint is a type of woodworking joint that is created by cutting a groove or channel into one piece of wood and fitting another piece of wood into that groove. It is commonly used to join shelves to bookcases or cabinets, and it provides a strong and durable connection.
A dado is a slot that is cut horizontally across the grain in a wooden piece, allowing you to insert and secure another piece. This joint is widely used when adding shelves to a project, like constructing a bookcase. By utilizing a dado, you can join pieces together using wood glue instead of screws.
The term “Bridle Joint” is synonymous with “Open Tennon” and can be used interchangeably to refer to the same type of joint.
Bridle joints are also known by the names of open mortise and tenon, or tongue and fork joints.
Dovetail wood joints are created by cutting a series of interlocking wedge-shaped tabs and slots in two pieces of wood, so that they fit tightly together. This type of joint is known for its strength and durability, as the interlocking tabs prevent the pieces from pulling apart. Dovetail wood joints are commonly used in woodworking projects such as cabinets, drawers, and furniture.
When fingers with a trapezoid shape intertwine, they create exceptional tensile strength, which is why the dovetail joint is also known as a swallowtail joint. This method of joinery is widely used when constructing drawers for cabinets.
Dowels are used as wooden pegs for joining pieces together. They are commonly made of hardwood and have a cylindrical shape. Dowels are inserted into pre-drilled holes and create a strong and secure bond between the separate pieces. These wooden pegs can be used in various applications, such as furniture assembly, woodworking, and construction.
If you want to make hidden joinery with dowels, you will need a dowel alignment tool, which is both inexpensive and almost indispensable for your toolbox. However, aside from that, this joinery method is simple and does not require any special tools.
Slightly More Complex Woodworking Joints
- A finger joint is also sometimes called a box joint. Fingers interlock to provide strength in two directions. You need special tools to make this type of woodworking joint.
- Like the previous finger joint, a dovetail wood joint is made with a special machine. This wood joinery is also a box joint with a bit more strength than the finger joint.
- A woodjoint is called Dado joint when a straight slot is made in one piece where another piece slides in. Another name for this joinery is box joint, derived from the main purpose for these joints. This connection method is for instance used when making shelves in cupboards and kitchens. When the slot is cut with the grain then this is called a groove joint.
- Floorboards and panels are often connected with a tongue and groove wood joinery. Each plank has a groove on one side and a tongue on the other. Both pieces fit together. It is possible to nail the planks together while hiding the nail heads. Drive the nails in the tongue where the head will be covered by the groove in the next board.
- When one piece of timber, the stub, fits into a corresponding hole, then it’s called a mortise and tenon woodjoint. A very common method in the assembly of furniture.
- For a crosslap woodjoint you have to remove pieces from each timber at the crossing point.
- For the lengthwise connection of timber is the scarf or splice joint. Useful when large constructions are made and all timber is too short. These are not strong woodworking joints at all, therefore the splice joint is often reinforced with planks on both sides.
The mortise and tenon joint is considered the strongest joint according to carpenters and woodworking enthusiasts. This method of joinery has been utilized for many years and is still employed by craftsmen to this day.
The bridle joint is slightly stronger than the mortise and tenon joint. Both joints have a tenon, but the bridle joint allows for easier slotting of the tenon between the cut-out, enabling the application of more wood glue and resulting in a stronger joint.