Mortise and Tenon

Mortise and tenon joint has been used for centuries by woodworkers around the world to join pieces of wood. Basic mortise and tenon joint comprises two components, the mortise hole (female) and the tenon (male). The tenon is cut to fit the mortise hole precisely and usually has shoulders that seat when the joint fully enters the mortise hole. To lock the joint in place, it may be glued, pinned or wedged.

A mortise is a square or rectangular hole cut into timber to receive a tenon. Several types of mortises are:

  • Open mortise – a hole with only three sides
  • Stub mortise – a shallow hole that do not go through the entire piece
  • Through mortise – a hole that goes through the entire piece
  • Wedged half-dovetail – a mortise wherein the back is wider or taller than the front or opening. The wedge prevents the withdrawal of the tenon once it is engaged.
  • Through wedged half-dovetail – a wedged half-dovetail hole that passes entirely through the piece.

A tenon is a projection on the end of a member generally referred to as a rail for insertion into a mortise. The tenon is usually taller than it is wide. Several types of tenons are:

  • Stub tenon – a projection shorter than the width of the mortised piece so it will not show
  • Tusk tenon – uses a wedge-shaped key to hold the joint together
  • Through tenon – a projection that passes entirely through the piece of wood it is inserted into and visible from the back side
  • Biscuit tenon – a tenon that looks like a biscuit being thin and oval shaped
  • Teasel tenon – a term used for the tenon on top of a gunstock post which is typically inserted into a mortise on the underside of a tie beam.
  • Top tenon – a projection that occurs on top of a post
  • Feather tenon – a round-shouldered machined fillet glued into a router-made mortise on each side of the joint
  • Hammer-headed tenon – used to join a curved member (where a mortise is formed) to a straight member (where the tenon is formed).

Disclaimer; This wiki article is contributed by our members without formal peer review and should not be taken as legal or contractual advice. All information read here is without any implied warranty of fitness for any purpose or use whatsoever. Even articles that have been vetted by informal review may later have been edited inappropriately, just before you view them.