Determining mortise depth

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Forum topic by groland posted 10-28-2018 02:52 AM 422 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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216 posts in 3830 days

10-28-2018 02:52 AM

Topic tags/keywords: determining mortise depth

If I am making two mortises in a table leg for the table’s side rails, is it better to make the mortises intersect or stop short of intersecting? If I do the former, I will have more glue surface on the tenon, but the joint might be weaker. If the mortises do not intersect, the leg might be stronger, but there will be less glue surface on the tenon.

Is one method better than the other?

6 replies so far

View lumbering_on's profile


578 posts in 909 days

#1 posted 10-28-2018 03:12 AM


I usually use a haunched m&t as it gives better gluing surface, and provides excellent support. However, I’ve never had them meet.

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10858 posts in 1905 days

#2 posted 10-28-2018 03:23 AM

I don’t let them meet but I alway make them as long as possible.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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4555 posts in 1008 days

#3 posted 10-28-2018 03:37 AM

You can always miter the ends of the tenons to get maximum length. However, unless your legs are very thin, I wouldn’t worry about it.

-- Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill. -- Shinichi Suzuki

View MrRon's profile


5567 posts in 3662 days

#4 posted 10-28-2018 03:59 PM

Here are 3 possible M&T joints that can be made. In these examples, the legs are 2”x2” and the tenoned pieces are 3/4” stock. The tenons are the normal relationship of a 3/8” tenon on 3/4” stock.
The left hand sketch is where the mortises intersect.
The middle sketch shows where the tenons are mitered.
The right hand sketch shows where the tenons have been shifted to the far face of the wood. This allows for more “meat” in the leg. Naturally, if design permits, the pieces can be offset giving more strength to the joint.

View ocean's profile


164 posts in 1252 days

#5 posted 10-28-2018 05:33 PM

I’ve always made my mortises in a leg met. I also have almost always had small legs, so I was trying to get max glue surface. As Ron shows in drawing #2. So far never had any problem with joint failure.

-- Bob, FL Keys

View John_'s profile


207 posts in 2125 days

#6 posted 10-29-2018 05:06 AM

I recently found myself in a similar situation and ended up using an ‘interlocking tenon’. Here is a pic of some scrap pieces I used for practice

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