A joint in woodworking is how two pieces of material are combined into one. There are a ton of different method to achieve this end result of two pieces being joined together all require different skills and even different tools. Attaching everything together with hand cut dovetails on your project is probably a little to adventurous. So as a beginner woodworker I will help show you some basic woodworking joints that can get you started making beautiful projects in your shop.
The lap joint is a very simply constructed joint and just requires a dado blade on your table saw. The lap joint just lays over the adjoining member and is cut down to match the thickness. Normally you remove half the thickness from both members. Not sure if that makes much sense but the diagram I created below should clear everything up. This is a relatively strong joint and can be seen in face-frame cabinetry construction sometimes. Its great joint to get use to using your dado stack and getting it all lined up.
This is probably the first joint I should have mentioned as it is extremely simple and just requires some wood glue and a couple screws. The use of plugs to hide your screws can really elevate the look the of the project from amateur to a more professional look. The most important aspects of this joint are to make sure your pieces are cut a true 90 degrees and that you predrill the pieces with a countersink before adding your screws. Why is having your pieces at 90 degrees important? Well, when you go to screw your pieces together and the pieces are not perfectly 90 your joint will have a tendency to be kicked out of square.
Now predrilling is just as equally important having a screw penetrate the wood so close the edge cause the wood to expand to make room for the screw and split the wood. That can be combatted by always making sure to predrill your screws slightly smaller than your actual screw.
Pocket hole joinery what is there to say? It’s amazing, giving you the ability to hide screws and join pieces together almost absolutely seamlessly. Pocket holes are how I built most of the projects starting out and I really enjoy using them.
So what are pocket holes? Pocket holes are drilled at an angle from the edge of the workpiece. The distance from the edge is normally set by the jig you are using according to the material thickness. Then the adjoining pieces are brought into place where it is all fasted together by a screw. With the angled hole drilled at the beginning your screw is virtually hidden.
Daddo joints are great if you are building boxes or cabinetry that have a self or a divider. All a dado really is a recessed groove in the workpiece that will accept the adjoining material. With this joint, you will need of course a dado stack. You can get away with doing multiple passes on your table saw to achieve the same thing. If you’re doing production or mass quantities of dados I really recommend getting a dado stack.
Biscuit joints use to be all the rave before sliced bread or maybe that pocket holes. The biscuit joints to me get used a lot in older pieces of work in the 90’s before pocket holes really caught on and got popular. They are still quite often used today tho, especially when it comes to alignment of table tops. Puting biscuits on the edge will help align the pieces when applying clamping pressure and result in a lot less planing or sanding of your tabletop.
A biscuit jointer will cut a recessed slot into the workpieces then giving you the ability to insert a small piece of wood. The small piece of would is called a biscuit normally made of beech and will swell when the wood glue is applied to it. This will give you a rock-solid point of contact.
This is a joint I use a lot in my projects. I think I use it so much cause it’s so simple. You drill a hole into the workpieces where you would like the joint to come together. Then cut a dowel rod or make a dowel to the overall depth you drill into both pieces. Put some glue on all of the surfaces of the dowel and in the joint connection, clamp it and you’re done. There are jigs that can be purchased for getting dead center alignment on the workpieces as well as a jig for making your dowels. I don’t have either of these tools. I just my use my drill press and oak dowel rods from the home center. If you don’t have a drill press then I do recommend a drill press because your holes definitely need to perpendicular in this joint.
There are a lot of joints out there and these few I talked about above just scratch the surface. The ones I laid out are the ones I think somebody getting into woodworking would have the most ease and hopefully more successful joinery. Starting out hand cutting dovetails is a little ambitious and if not done correctly could ruin your project. This, in turn, could hurt your motivation to keep going with woodworking and that’s not what I want to have happen.
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