You don’t have to be a carpenter to know a little bit about how woodworking works. There’s something satisfying about the smell of wood being cut, the look of a freshly varnished piece of furniture, and the ability to turn a tree into a work of art.
Everyone wants to be a woodworker in some way or another. Maybe you are interested in the different types of joints that have been used for thousands of years! Find out what type of joint you need for your project.
What Is A Wood Joint?
A wood joint is a traditional way of securing two pieces of wood together. While adhesives can be used in place of a wood joint, a good wood joint can help to make that joint even more secure. So it is always good to make a joint.
Wood joints have been used for centuries, or even longer, to secure wood together without adhesives. Today, there are over a dozen different types of wood joints, all used for different purposes in woodworking.
Some common reasons that wood joints are used are to secure furniture, wood flooring, frames, and even structures. Being able to create each wood joint and know what they are for is not something that you will know without a little studying.
Types Of Wood Joints
Though custom wood joints are still being made today, there will always be tried and true joints that can work for almost any project. These wood joints work for most projects, though each of them has a unique purpose.
While not all of them are right for beginners, after some time working with wood and the tools needed to create the joints, you will be able to create any joint you can imagine. So here’s you’re 411 on wood joints.
Uses: cabinet frames, temporary framing, tables
A lap joint is a joint in which the joints overlap. You may know this type of joint from your childhood, playing with lincoln logs. There are two types of lap joints: half-lap and full-lap joints. Most of the time, the thickness equals one board.
For example, if two 2x4s (assuming they are exactly two inches thick) use a lap joint to join on the flat side, one inch would be carved from each of them so that together, they are still two inches thick.
Uses: boxes, carcasses, polygonal furniture
A box joint is made by creating notches in wood to create interlocking profiles. They are joined at a right angle to create a strong frame that needs little adhesive to be secure. Most traditional boxes use this joint.
While box joints can be created with a traditional saw or knife, most table saws or specialty saws come with attachments to make creating box joints easy. They will work as a traditional electric saw or hole punch.
Uses: affordable furniture, shelving, frames
Dowel joints are easy to do yourself as all you need are dowel rods and a drill. You screw holes into the board and use dowels to hold the two pieces of wood together. You’ll notice this a lot in cheaper furniture kits.
Though dowel joints aren’t as secure as some others, if the dowel is thick enough then it can bear just as much weight as any other type of joint in the same wood. As long as they are deep into the wood as well.
Uses: furniture, cabinets, log buildings, and traditional timber framing
A dovetail joint is very similar to a box joint but it goes in and is narrow on the inside, creating an even tighter hold. It has one of the best tensile strengths of any type of joint due to the shape of the joint notches.
Because of its strength and the fact that it doesn’t need modern-day fasteners, the dovetail joint is one of the oldest types of wood joints. It pre-dates written history, with dovetail joints being found in both ancient Egyptian and Chinese tombs.
Uses: joints that are visible
A rabbet joint isn’t a strong joint alone and is instead a way to create a flush end rather than to secure the joint. It is great for reducing the end grain seen on the wood as it creates a flat end with little grain visible.
The rabbet joint needs adhesive to work, which can be glue or metal fasteners. It is often paired with other, more secure, wood joints for this reason. For example, using a dowel joint will ensure that the joints stay together.
Uses: picture frames, boxes, drawers
A miter joint is made by cutting two pieces at a 45-degree angle to be joined at a right angle. It is common for frames and other box-like shapes made with wood, though it is also used for pipes that need to be elbowed.
It isn’t ideal for use in furniture or in objects that rely on structural integrity. Though it is simply a joint that looks good but needs to be glued together. It isn’t used in furniture unless accompanied by another joint.
Uses: a base for your joint
A butt joint is simply a base joint that is used to create many other types of wood joints. It is when you take two full pieces of wood and put them up against each other on the ends, creating a flat edge on all sides.
You can use a butt joint for almost any other type of wood joint. Start with a butt joint and add other securing features from another joint. This includes those secured with dowels or metal hardware.
Tongue And Groove Joints
Uses: flooring, paneling, siding
One of the hardest ways to secure wood is end to end or side to side. The thinness of the wood makes it difficult to make it secure, so the tongue and groove joint was created to ensure that they could be stable.
Tonge and groove joints are most common in floorings, such as wood flooring, laminate flooring, and engineered wood flooring. It uses a groove that a tongue is carved out in another piece of wood to fit in snugly.
Uses: to hide screws and nails
A pocket joint is common in construction when you want to eliminate any screw or nail visibility. You can use a butt joint and instead of screwing the screws in on the end, you screw them in at an angle.
Most of the time, you create a notch on the inside to hide the screw further and give a flat spot for the screw to go in. Without this, it is difficult to guide the screw into the right spot with the angled wood.
Mortise And Tenon Joint
Uses: structures, furniture, large scale projects
A mortise and tenon joint connects two pieces at a right angle. This is an ancient technique where one piece of wood has a hole in it and the other is protruding to create an oblong notch that can go into the hole.
It is a very basic and easy-to-use technique that is one of the strongest types of holds that you can make. You can use glue to make it even more secure, but without the glue, you can adjust it at any time.
Uses: cabinets, small furniture
A biscuit joint is a type of joint that uses a small disc to join two pieces of wood together. The disc goes into both pieces of wood and is usually made of compressed particle board though it can be made of anything.
Most of the time, the biscuit is made of particleboard or something similar. If you do this, when you add glue, it expands as it dries and creates an even more secure hold. Biscuits for this joint are usually made with a special saw.
Uses: shelves, cabinets, drawers
The dado joint uses a three-sided channel cut across the grain of one piece of wood that is just wide enough for the other piece of wood to fit in. You’ll notice this in shelves and drawers a lot where the wood slides right in.
Oftentimes, these joints are used for movable parts. So you can move the drawers or shelves in and out at any time to adjust them. That way, you can add multiple grooves to choose the height of the drawers and shelving.
Which Type Of Joint Do I Need?
If you aren’t an experienced woodworker, you won’t know the right type of joint to use for your project. What you can do is ask someone online on a forum, contact a woodworker, or even ask a veteran associate at a hardware store.
It’s a good idea to start with small projects to test out the simple joints before moving on to the more difficult ones. You can also get boards cut at most hardware stores for you at a very reasonable price.
If your project will rely on structural integrity with safety as a concern, then have someone with experience lend a hand throughout. If not, then feel free to experiment yourself. After all, that’s where experience comes from!