Tenon length...

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Forum topic by KevBotWorkshop posted 03-10-2018 02:00 AM 947 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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19 posts in 861 days

03-10-2018 02:00 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tenon mortise joinery coffee table

Hey all I am currently in the process of designing a coffee table to build. You can see what I am doing here. Nothing new, not recreating the wheel here. Storage on bottom, space in between, and then the top.

The sides for the storage are shaker style with a panel in the middle. My question comes from connecting the panels to the legs of the table. I was going to do them with mortise and tenons just like in photo 2. The rails are 6/4 with 3/4” thick tenon. The leg stock will be 8/4 or 2”. My concern comes from Tenon length. In photo 3 you can see how if I made the tenons longer they would run into each other. Currently the tenons are at 1/2” and it seems too short. Advice and thoughts would be great. I would really not like to use pocket screws. Looking for all the joinery to be mortise and tenons.

I think I may just decrease the thickness of the rails which would make the tenons thinner and move them over on the legs which would make them longer.

What should I do people?

-- Kevin Johnson, Chicago IL, Instagram - @KevBotWorkshop

9 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4130 days

#1 posted 03-10-2018 03:07 AM

Length and width in tenons is more important
than thickness. 1/2” thick is fine for this
application. I would move the tenons out
so there’s a 1/8” shoulder on the outside
edge and a wider shoulder on the inside.
That will allow longer tenons and more long
grain glue surface.

View Woodknack's profile


12893 posts in 2862 days

#2 posted 03-10-2018 03:11 AM

The tenons on all my tables are mitered. The mortises meet and I leave a gap between the tenons so they are close but don’t interfere with one another. Probably not necessary but that was the way I learned it and it’s the way I do it.

Very quick and dirty sketch

-- Rick M,

View JADobson's profile


1445 posts in 2593 days

#3 posted 03-10-2018 03:45 AM

The tenons on all my tables are mitered. The mortises meet and I leave a gap between the tenons so they are close but don t interfere with one another. Probably not necessary but that was the way I learned it and it s the way I do it.

- Woodknack

+1 this is what I’ve done on all my table projects. I think I picked it up from Chris Schwarz in an early project of his (the stickly side table in my projects) at popular woodworking. Method works well.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View Rich's profile (online now)


4837 posts in 1072 days

#4 posted 03-10-2018 04:24 AM

Good points above. Also, you don’t have to center your tenon on the rail. You allude to moving them to the outside by making the rail thinner, so you’re headed in the right direction, but you could also keep the rail thickness and just offset the tenons towards the outside. That, combined with the suggestions to cut their thickness to 1/2” and miter them should give you all the room you need.

-- There's no such thing as a careless electrician

View Aj2's profile


2431 posts in 2280 days

#5 posted 03-10-2018 04:47 AM

How about a double tenon. 50% more woodworking fun then a boring single tenon.
Here’s a pic I stole from the Internet .:)

-- Aj

View Mark's profile


1012 posts in 2457 days

#6 posted 03-19-2018 03:25 PM

Crapazoid Aj2. I have a hard enough time fitting a single, never mind 2.

-- Mark

View LesB's profile


2173 posts in 3925 days

#7 posted 03-19-2018 05:55 PM

Want to make that double tenon quick and easy? All you need is this, go to:
I recently got one. It works great. See my evaluation of it in Reviews.

How about a double tenon. 50% more woodworking fun then a boring single tenon.
Here s a pic I stole from the Internet .:)

- Aj2

-- Les B, Oregon

View bonesbr549's profile


1583 posts in 3549 days

#8 posted 03-20-2018 04:29 PM

If like me, we over engineer everything. I remember watching a video, of testing sheer strength of cabinet doors. They were looking at floating tenon, full tenon, dowels, biscuits, and domino. she sheer pressure was extreme for even the weakest. I thought to myself, thats fine and dandy, if you standing on the door, but not many of us stand on our cabinet doors.

My motto is on a tennon thickness = 1/3 of stock with mortice. If its 3/4 stock then tenon would be 1/4” etc. On length, if in like your instance you have tops on all of it, and its all tied together , you are pretty good. Only exception would be if the legs were real long, like a kitchen table, and I’d worry about splaying and stress fractures, etc.

from your pic, what you have I would be fine with. I do like others would have them touch, at a minimum or miter. Not that much more, but hey ya never know.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View John_'s profile


212 posts in 2188 days

#9 posted 03-20-2018 06:56 PM

I recently built a copy of a Pottery Barn ‘play table’ for my grandkids. Similar dimension – 2” square legs with a 1” x 3” apron.

The general rule of thumb for tenon thickness that I use is 1/3 if your using hand tools and 1/2 if they are being machined. Tennon width would usually be 1/2 the width of the piece you’re cutting it into

I was originally going to go with a mitered tenon but decided on an interlocking tenon instead. Here are some scrap pieces I used to see how it would work out

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