11 Essential woodworking joints to know

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So you want to know more about woodworking joints?

Then you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog, I will give you an overview of what it exactly means to join wood, what types of woodworking joints there are, and what the advantages and strengths of each type are.

That way, you can use this in your workshop to determine which connection is the right one for your project you’re working on.

Do not forget to download the FREE POSTER in this blog. You can hang it in your workshop as a guide.

If you didn’t want to make joints, you would need a very large solid block of wood so you can make it all in one piece.

Woodworking joinery means that two pieces of wood will be connected together to build a bigger whole.

That connection must be well-thought-out and tailored to the project you are working on.

How do you join two pieces of wood together

With woodworking joinery, you saw the wood so that two pieces fit together and you get a strong and durable connection.

Joining can be done with glue, screws, or nails or by using only wood.

But what types of woodworking joints are there, and which one is best for that particular project?

Continue reading this blog with the 11 most common types of woodworking joints and their specific strengths and benefits.

After that, you will have a clear idea of which woodworking joints are best suited for the project you are working on.

Don’t just use any wood glue for your projects!

To find out which different types exist and for which applications they serve, check out my blog Understanding Wood Glue + 8 awesome tricks you should know. Here you will discover everything you need to know about wood glue.

What tools do you need to make joints

You can make woodworking joints with a minimum of tools.

You start with a good way to mark your work, such as a pencil or marking knife.

Use a square to mark at right angles.
Finally, you can cut the joints with a good handsaw.

Below I selected a few tools with which you can make almost any joint described in this blog.

For some woodworking joints, you will be able or have to replace the hand tools with power tools, but I describe that in the relevant joint.

7 woodworking techniques for better accuracy

Marking tools
There are several options for marking your workpiece. I describe them in my blog 7 woodworking techniques for better accuracy
Make sure to check out that blog to find the best marking tool for you

A handsaw
To make joints you will have to make a lot of precise cuts. Some woodworking joints can be made with a table saw, others must be done by hand. 
For that I recommend a Japanese pull saw.

A square
With this set of squares your marking lines will always be at the right angle.

Chisel set
To clean up your cuts or chisel out a mortise you will need a good set of chisels
This set even includes a honing guide and a sharpening stone.

Dovetail saw guide jig
Making dovetails needs to be precise. With this magnetic dovetail guide jig, you always make perfect cuts at the same angle.

What are the types of woodworking joints

If you want to make wood joints, you can choose from a whole arsenal of options.

The 11 most common woodworking joints are: the butt joint, half-lap joint, mitered joint, dado joint, box joint, tongue and groove joint, mortise and tenon joint, pocket hole joint, rabbet joint, biscuit joint and dovetail joint.

I will further clarify these, one by one, below.

Butt joints

The first and also the easiest joint I will discuss is the butt joint.

A butt joint is nothing more than when one piece of wood with the end grain is connected at a right angle to the long grain of another piece of wood.

It may be a very easy type of connection, but it is also one of the weakest.

Usually, this connection is secured with fasteners such as screws or nails.

Butt woodworking joints also work well with dowels and wood glue.

The butt joint is a joint that is often used when making wall frames or sometimes furniture.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

Half-lap joints

With a half-lap joint, half the thickness of each piece of wood is sawn away so that the two boards fit together and the pieces fit flush together.

Most of the time glue is used to make a connection between the two boards.

You can use this joint if the pieces of wood you use have the same thickness.

This type of wood joinery will weaken the strength of the two boards by cutting but is a stronger joint than butt joints.

Half-lap joints are widely used in the construction of furniture.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

Mitered butt joints

A mitered joint is very similar to a standard butt joint.

The difference with butt joints is that the two boards are connected at an angle instead of at right angles to each other.

This connection is made when it is indicated for aesthetic reasons that the end grain is no longer visible.

However, just like the butt joint, the miter joint is not that strong.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

Dado joints

A dado is a very popular joint for connecting two pieces of wood in a strong way.

This is a commonly used wood joint for connecting plywood when building cabinets or bookshelves.

To make a dado, you cut a slot from one piece of wood, in which another piece of wood fits exactly.

The groove you make where the other piece of wood has to fit must be made very precisely.

If you make the slot too narrow, the piece of wood will not fit in, if you make the slot too wide, the piece of wood will not be stuck and will fall out.

You can use a kerfmaker as an aid to make this slot perfectly tailored.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

If you want to build your own kerfmaker be sure to watch my blog DIY Kerfmaker for perfect dados and grooves

In that blog I will show you step by step how I built my kerfmaker and you can download FREE PLANS as a guide to make your own kerfmaker.

Tongue and groove joints

If you want to connect two planks along one long side, a tongue and groove joint is a perfect choice.

At the tongue and groove joint, the edge of one plank has a groove while the other plank has an extended thin tongue that fits into the groove of the first plank.

This type of connection can be glued and ensures perfect alignment and strong connection of 2 boards.

Tongue and groove joints are often used for laminate floors or facade cladding.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

Mortise and tenon joints

This is a classic and one of the oldest types of wood joints available.

As with the tongue and groove connection, here is also a board with a groove and a board with a protruding part that fits into this groove.

The groove, or called the mortise, is a square or rectangular hole that is chiseled out of one piece of wood.

On the other piece of wood, a tenon is cut that fits perfectly into the mortise.

This mortise and tenon joints can be glued or attached to each other with dowels.

In the past, this connection was often used in the manufacture of furniture, but also in construction.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

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Box joints

The box joint is a fairly simple but very strong connection.

If the chosen wood, such as plywood, does not allow making dovetail joints, the box joint is a perfect alternative.

Because the cuts are square, no delamination will occur with plywood.

With this connection, you make fingers on each board that fit together perfectly when the boards are put connected.

When wood glue is added to this joint, you get a very strong connection.

The box joint is often used to make drawers or wooden boxes.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

A while ago I made a video on How to make a box joint jig.

Be sure to check out that video, so you can make perfect box joints with this jig and a table saw fast and easy.

Pocket hole joints

The pocket joint is an extension on the butt joint

By drilling a pilot hole at an angle on one side, you can insert a screw that pulls the two planks together and connects them.

For this, you use a pocket hole jig.

I myself use this Kreg pocket hole R3 JR, a simple starter kit for a very reasonable price. 
I can recommend this to everyone to have this pocket hole jig in the workshop.

Pocket joints are excellent for making front frames or cabinets where you can hide the openings of the pockets.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

Rabbet joints

A rabbet is actually the same as a dado. The only difference with the dado is that the slot is not placed in the middle of the board but is cut along the edge of the board.

Rabbets are a common wood joint for making cabinets where it is often used on the back of the cabinets. 

By attaching a back panel to this rabbet, the cabinet becomes whole more solid.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

Biscuit joints

An alternative to the tongue and groove method are biscuit joints.

These types of connections are much faster to make than the tongue and groove connection, but you need a special tool for this.

With this tool, you make small grooves where the biscuits fit.

These will align the boards and hold them in place while you glue them together.

This type of joinery has been increasingly used in modern woodworking in recent years.

It is an ideal way to make tabletops.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

I selected a few of these tools that you can use for this type of joinery, together with the biscuits you need for this.

Dovetail joints

As the last of all wood joinery methods, I discuss the dovetail joint.

If you have been looking around for articles or videos about woodworking for a while, then you have undoubtedly come across this connection. 

This connection is a classic and because of its shape, it is beautiful and very strong.

There are some variants of the dovetail joint such as the Half-Blind Dovetail Joint and the Sliding Dovetail.

In the end, they all come down to roughly the same.

A pin that widens towards the end is made on one plank and in the plank you want to connect a hole is made that has exactly the same shape as the pin.

By sliding these two parts into each other, a strong and solid connection is created because of the shape of the fingers.

Dovetail joints are, in my opinion, the most difficult connection to make. 
You will have to practice this.

11 Essential woodworking joints to know

Which woodworking joints should you use

It is difficult to give a general answer to this.

The choice of the right connection depends on the project and the type of wood you are working on.

Should it be a strong connection or rather an aesthetic connection?
Do you need to connect wood on the end grain or along the long grain?

By going through the different options, you now have a better understanding of how these woodworking joints are constructed and you will be able to decide which connection is best suited for your project.

Do not forget to download the FREE POSTER that you can hang in your workshop.

Recommended books about Joinery

Books are always a good idea to have.

They are a win-win situation, you enjoy your favorite reading with a nice glass of wine and you learn something new.

These are my recommended books:

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