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Know Your Wood Joinery

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Furniture,wood furniture

Great furniture sits at the crossroads of beauty, utility and durability, and good wood joinery plays a big role in each of these areas.

Wood joinery, if you’re not familiar, describes the method in which wood pieces are joined together to make something, whether it's a piece of furniture, a house or a picture frame. There are all kinds of joints and all kinds of ways they can be used.

Today, we’re going to look at some popular joint types; what they look like, why they’re used and how they work.

1. Dovetail Joint

There are a few different types of dovetail joint, but they all feature trapezoidal interlocking “pins” and “tails” (like those seen above) that individually resemble – you guessed it – a dove’s tail.

This is classic joinery that historians believe predates written history, which means it’s been around for a long, long time. The reason: It worked really well to keep wood joined together, even before they had things like screws and glue, and it works even better now.

2. Mortise & Tenon Joint

Again, like with dovetails, there are various kinds of mortise and tenon joints, but these joints features pins (the tenons) on one end of a board that insert into grooves or holes (mortises) in the adjoining board.

This is very strong joinery that has also been used for a long time, although it’s hard to notice it in furniture, particularly when a “stub” mortise and tenon are employed, because there is no visible evidence of the joint.

3. Butt Joint

By far the most basic of joints, a butt joint is made when the end of one board is set at a 90-degree angle with another and joined by a fastener of some kind (usually nails, screws or brackets).

Butt joints and their cousins, mitered butt joints, are common in furniture, and while perhaps not as elegant as other joints, they offer stability at a greater value due to their less complicated manufacture and application.

4. Tongue & Groove Joint

A tongue and groove is another common joint that consists of a long, raised “tongue” along the edge of a board that fits into the recessed groove of another.

Tongue and groove joints hold their own classification, but shares similarities with dado and rabbet joints that improve upon butt joints by providing more connecting surface areas, particularly when glued.

So, what kind of wood joint do you want for your furniture? Inevitably, the answer is: The one that will work best with the design at the best possible price.

The Modus Furniture "Brighton" nightstand features a handy pullout shelf and solid hardwood drawers constructed with dovetail joinery. 

You won't notice the mortise and tenon joints used in this outdoor drop-leaf table by Phat Tommy, but you will notice its sturdy construction in certified sustainable eucalyptus.

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