The Art of Joinery

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Joinery is not only about fitting and fixing 2 pieces of wood together. It combines craftsmanship, innovation, creativity and artisanal technique all into a project that one could argue to be a beautiful piece of art.

Join us as we take a journey into the world of joinery and learn about some of the founding methods and techniques used to build structures, furniture and various other items.

Now I know you’re excited to climb into our very own time travelling machine and pay the ancient Egyptians a visit…

However, we don’t want to look uneducated so let’s first learn about the more common methods in joinery.

The Dowel Joint

This is when two pieces of wood are joined using a dowel reinforcement. It’s an efficient and cost-effective solution for modern manufacturers, thus it’s quite commonly used in factory-made furniture.

The Mitre Joint

A beautifully simple but fairly weak joint which is commonly used in tables, picture frames and other light applications. It consists of two pieces of wood, bevelled on the end/edge (usually at 45°), and glued together to create a right angle. This joint has the advantage of incredible aesthetics but the disadvantage of low strength threshold.

The Halved Joint

Another clean, aesthetically pleasing joint with, sadly, limited applications and limited strength. Two pieces of wood are placed at an intersection (X position), with identical cut outs in the centre of each piece to enable a flush over-lap. A handy joint used in cabinetry as partitions, as well as in Torsion Boxes.

The Housing Joint

Also known as a Dado or Trench joint, this is when a through or stopped section is cut out against the grain of one piece, in order to fit into another. It’s a very common, straightforward joint used extensively in carpentry, especially for shelving.

Okay… I think it’s time we stimulate the eyes for a bit and give our brains a bit of a breather!


Okay back to why you are here, lets cover 4 more joins and then pay the Egyptians a visit.

The Groove Joint

Similar to a Housing joint but is differentiated by the piece of wood being cut with the grain instead of against it. Like the Housing joint, it can be cut through or stopped, meaning it’s ends are left open on both sides or closed on one side. Increased strength and stability would be one reason to make a Groove or Housing joint stopped.

The Mortise and Tenon Joint

common traditional woodworking joint with historic origins, the Mortise and Tenon is significant in the simplicity of its design and the strength it provides. There is a seemingly endless array of types, mostly a variation of the Mortise (hole) or Tenon (tongue), all which provide varying levels of stability. This joint can’t be underestimated and is a beautiful example of form and function in one. You will most likely have multiple examples of furniture with this joint in your home right now!

The Finger Joint

An easy one to grasp due to the name, this joint is made from two pieces of wood which have a series of small, complementary cut-outs made on the ends which interlock to make a right angle. This joint has increased strength and stability due to the two-way pressure load, and can also add hugely to the aesthetic of the piece.

The Dovetail Joint

Perhaps the signature joint in furniture design and fine carpentry, the Dovetail has it all; strength, aesthetic and endurance. Similar in principle to the Finger joint, the Dovetail joint differentiates itself via the complementary cut-out “fingers” being diagonally cut and in a number of configurations, depending on the type. These include the Through Dovetail, the Half-Blind Dovetail, the Secret Mitred (or Full-Blind) Dovetail, the Secret Double-lapped Dovetail and the Sliding Dovetail.

The Pocket Joint

Creating this join involves cutting a slot and pre-drilling a pilot hole at an angle between two boards before connecting the two with a screw. This pre-drilling needs to be very accurate, so it is typically accomplished by use of a commercial jig. Pocket joints work great for cabinet face frames and other similar applications where a lot of strength is not needed. Learn the steps to creating pocket joints in your woodworking projects here.

Now that we’ve covered the basic forms of joining wood and a few advanced one’s too we can dabble around in the origin of these joins.

Stay tuned for our follow up article where we will be exploring the origins of joinery (no I’m pretty sure there won’t be any Aliens in Egypt unfortunately).





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Showing 3 comments
  • Phil

    Nicely illustrated explanation

    • Marius

      Thank you Phil!

  • William Ramwell

    I went to the museum in Cairo and can tell you the Egyptians were rubbish woodworkers. They didn’t seem to use joints.

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