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    Simple Tip for Tighter Mortise-and-Tenon Joints

    When I first began cutting mortise-and-tenon joints, I followed a simple routine that worked well, but wasn't quite up to the caliber of some of the furniture I was seeing on a regular basis in Fine Woodworking magazine or the shops of professional furniture maker friends. Here's how I did it:

    • Cut mortise
    • Mark for tenon off mortise
    • Cut tenon using dado set or box joint blade on the tablesaw
    • Final fitting with shoulder and rabbet planes

    Pretty standard stuff, right? Like I said, it worked well, but I never quite felt as though my joints were fitting quite as tightly as they could. The tenon shoulder-to mortise face connection always seemed to have just enough "schmootz" in it to allow for an "almost, but not quite" perfect fit. Then I discovered underbeveling.

    By underbeveling the shoulders of my tenons just a wee bit, I quickly found my joints fitting so tight I'd be hard-pressed to fit even a cigarette paper in between. The process couldn't be simpler, and it works pretty much every time. Best of all, it won't effect the structural integrity of the joint if you use a light touch. Here's how I do it:


    With my workpiece clamped into place, I begin by undercutting the shoulders that run along the wide faces of (in this case) my table apron. Remember, it doesn't take much to make this a super-tight fit--just a few passes wtih a sharp chisel. You want to remove just a bit of material where the shoulder intersects the cheek.

    Reposition your workpiece and tackle the narrower area beneath the top and bottom edges of the apron.

    There you have it. This apron piece fits tightly against it's mating leg. No space or gaps at all!