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Traditional Joinery Methods

Last week we looked at modern joinery techniques using the latest tools, and in this article we look at traditional joinery methods using a variety of hand and woodworking tools.


We recently featured an article on modern joinery techniques using a biscuit joiner, pocket hole jig or domino joiner. In this article we look at more traditional methods of joinery using hand and woodworking tools.

When starting out in DIY and woodworking projects, apart from acquainting yourself with the tools you will use for various projects, you should also understand the various joining techniques that can be used to join the various pieces of your project together.

Joinery is a method for joining pieces of wood or board together and there are many different types of joints that can be used during the assembly process, whether you are making a basic coffee table or building your own cabinets and cupboards, you should understand the basics of joinery.







With so many joining options to choose from, how do you know what joint method is right for your project? To make it a little easier for you, especially if you are new to DIY and woodworking, we have compiled a selection of the most common joinery methods and how and where you would incorporate these into a piece of furniture or project:

Most Basic Joint

- Butt Joint

Starting with the most basic method of joinery, we begin with the humble butt joint. This joint is the most commonly used method for joining pieces together, especially when you are starting out with basic DIY and woodworking projects, but it is also one of the weakest joints.

A butt joint is achieved by overlapping one piece over the other – butting one end to another end. Pilot holes and screws are driven through the overlapping section into the piece that butts up at the back.

Butt joints should only be considered for projects where no stress will be placed on the article being made, or where additional reinforcing will be included.





- Mitred Butt Joint

A mitred butt or bevel joint is one where the two end pieces are cut at an angle and then joined together. These joints are popular for making decorative wooden boxes and projects that require a more decorative finishing detail.

If you want to add mitred joints to your projects you would need to invest in a Compound Mitre Saw, adjustable Table Saw or Router with appropriate router bits for cutting the angled edges.





Common Woodworking Joints

- Lap Joint

A lap or half-lap joint is one where a rebate is cut out of both sections so that the pieces overlap. This type of joinery is considered as a reasonably strong joint, as the use of wood glue helps strengthen the join.

On both pieces to be joined, stock is removed equally on both sections to ensure that the joints fit together neatly.
Lap joints are commonly used to assemble window frames muntins and mullions.

- Cross-Lap Joint

The cross-lap joint is one where a section of wood is laid over the top of another and joined together. As with a butt joint, the lap joint is not considered a strong joint, but it is a joint that is often used when two pieces need to be overlapped or cross each other.

A good example of a half-lap joint is the ‘X’ coffee table that we featured a few years back.





- Dado Joint

A dado is a slot that is cross-cut (cut across the grain) in a piece of wood or board that lets you slot a piece in place. This type of joint is very common and is used when you want to add shelves to your project, such as when making a bookcase. Using a dado allows you to assemble pieces using wood glue rather than screws.

In the image above, you can clearly see how a dado cut in one side allows the adjoining piece to be slotted in place.


Decorative Joints

- Dovetail Joint

Dovetail joints are very strong joints that are commonly used to join drawers together for a decorative and craftsman finish. Popular amongst woodworkers and carpenters, dovetail joints are not an easy joint for a beginner, unless you have the right tools and jigs.

When using dovetail joints the best result is achieved when using two different wood species; one from the sides of the drawer and a different wood for the drawer face.

Strongest Joints

Carpenters and woodworking enthusiast will tell you that the strongest joint is the mortise and tenon joint. The joinery method of using mortise and tenon is one that has been around for hundreds of years and is still used today by craftsmen.

However, a joint that is marginally stronger than a mortise and tenon joint is the bridle joint. While similar in that they both have a tenon, being able to easily slot the tenon between the cut out allows for the application of more wood glue, creating a stronger joint.