Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 Joints Beginner Woodworkers Should Learn

Joints are the cornerstone of just about every woodworking project. Learn the basics, then get fancy.

Photo by Renzzo |

1. Edge Joint

Edge gluing lumber together is a critical step in all but the smallest projects. The ability to end up with panels wider than the widest board you have is a wonderful thing. Tip – you shouldn’t need extreme pressure to get mating boards to fit together nicely. A face joint is essentially the same, but the faces of boards are joined together.

2. Rabbet

The old standard when building kitchen cabinets and some other casework, this joint isn’t the strongest, and doesn’t assist with joint location overly well, but it still has a time and place.

3. Dado

When a groove is cut in one piece that accepts another piece, it’s called a dado joint. This joint has many uses and is easily cut with a table saw or router. Hand tool aficionados also use it with good success.

4. Dowel

Some woodworkers shy away from dowels, as they tend to not be as strong as mortise and tenon joints, but when extreme strength isn’t required dowels offer a quick and effective way of creating a joint. You can use one of the many aftermarket jigs or purchase a set of dowel centers to help you out with locating the holes.

5. Half Lap

This is a strong joint, often used in door frames and carcase construction. It can also be cut many ways, which makes it a crowd pleaser.

6. Mitre

From picture frames to home improvements, a mitre joint is a nice-looking joint that isn’t too hard to create with a mitre saw or hand tools. My preferred method involves a sled on my table saw, as I can work very safely and accurately to produce clean joints.

7. Bevel

Similar to a mitre, a bevel joint is usually cut along the length of a part. It’s often ripped on a table saw, with the blade set to an angle. Both mitre and bevel joints will often benefit from having a mechanical aspect added to the joint to increase strength and help with joint location during glue-up.

8. Mortise and Tenon

This traditional joint can be created many ways. Because of the large amount of glue surface area, and the fact that it offers a decent amount of mechanical strength, it’s a strong joint.

9. Bridle / Slip Joint

Though they’re more complex to create, these joints are very strong and don’t require fancy tooling. They can be a bit tricky to glue up, though.

10. Butt

Okay, this one is a bit of a trick, but it’s mentioned for good reason – beginner woodworkers like to use it, but they shouldn’t, as it’s very weak. A butt joint is made when you glue the end grain of one piece of wood to any grain on another piece of wood. It usually results in a glue-starved joint that will fall apart eventually, if not quickly. A butt joint with dowels would be much stronger.


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Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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