What is a Mortise and Tenon?

Posted in: Rustic Furniture
2010-03-08 20:55:00
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Learn how Log Beds are MadeLet’s talk about what a mortise and tenon is today.  You will see the term mortise and tenon used on our site in descriptions due to most all of our rustic furniture uses mortise and tenon joints. Mortise and tenon joints have been used for centuries by woodworking craftsmen because of the benefits they give in strength and simplicity.  Mortise and tenon joints in log furniture are used when one piece of log is joining to another.  You will see mortise and tenon joints on all of our log furniture in one form or another. What most do not realize is that the strength of the log furniture will fall upon the tenon and how large it is.  Keep this in mind as you are looking at rustic furniture; The size of the logs used doesn’t make a rustic furnishing stronger or weaker – the size of the tenon does.  A log bed made with 4″ diameter logs and 2″ tenons will probably be stronger than a log bed made with 6″ diameter logs and 1 1/2″ tenons. The basic premise behind a mortise and tenon joint is that one piece of wood is inserted into another, and then held in place with a fastener.  Today most mortise and tenon joints in rustic furniture are held together with glue and a screw or lag bolt. Tenons can be cut and shaped by hand, but most often the tenon is formed by placing a spinning blade shaped like a funnel over the end of the end of the log.  Most tenon cutters are sold by the size of the tenon they cut.  A 2″ tenon cutter will leave a 2″ tenon on the log.  It is recommended to apply some pressure to the tenon after it is cut – make sure the log did not have a hidden weak point.  This tenon is what will support the weight of the log furniture piece and the person using the furniture. Cutting the mortise involves marking a spot on the log where you want the other log to join and then drilling a hole the same size as the tenon you are going to insert into the log at the angle you desire.  A drill press is most often used to keep the mortise straight and clean.  The log is usually locked in place so that it will not move and then the press is lowered allowing the bit to sink into the log, drilling a small amount at a time so as not to ‘chew’ the wood around the mortise. This sums up what a mortise and tenon is.  I hope you have found it useful.  Of course if you have any questions or comments regarding log furniture or rustic furniture please feel free to contact us at 877-LOG FURN (877-564-3876).
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