Maple Trestle Table, Session 12 – Fitting the Mother of all Mortise & Tenon Joints

On the morning of Sunday, April 15th, Morton and I exchanged ideas about trestle tables, spurred on by a recent sketch of a table on which he was working.  That got me yearning to build a trestle table.

I documented my progress live on Twitter which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  Here is a list of the previous Sessions:

Session 1 – Flat Boards are Boring;
Session 2 – Playing with Slabs;
Session 3 – From Two Slabs to One Table Top;
Session 4 – Clamping Odd Shapes and Sketching on Wood;
Session 5 – Routing Pockets for Battens;
Session 6 – Making Battens and Installing Countertop Connectors;
Session 7 – Installing Battens and Flattening the Underside;
Session 8 – Make Your Tools Work for You and Flattening the Top;
Session 9 – Mortises the Slow Way (or Why I’m Buying a Domino XL);
Session 10 – Curvy Legs are Always Good; and
Session 11 – Straight Lines on Wonky Surfaces.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks I went for a rollerblade around Lafarge Lake and a great bicycle ride through Ridge Park. And it’s only 12:30. Time to start work! #flairww -12:38 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is how I left the shop after the last session. #flairww -12:51 PM May 6th, 2012

luggermatt @FlairWoodworks *Passes you a broom* ;-) -12:52 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I need more than a broom! #flairww RT @luggermatt: @FlairWoodworks *Passes you a broom* ;-) -12:52 PM May 6th, 2012

luggermatt @FlairWoodworks Haha! :-) -12:52 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks An excavator might the the right tool for the job. #flairwwRT @luggermatt: @FlairWoodworks Haha! :-) -12:53 PM May 6th, 2012

luggermatt @FlairWoodworks I can create more waste than that in a morning when I get going at the mo!

FlairWoodworks A couple days ago my wood guy, Dave, stopped by to see the table. He was thoroughly impressed. #flairww -12:57 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Nickelback’s “Burn it to the Ground” is playing on @993thefox. Is that a bad omen? Nah, I don’t believe that. #flairww -12:58 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I want to cut the mortise in this leg and then fit the tenon to it. #flairww -1:00 PM May 6th, 2012

mtvtdmsfts RT @FlairWoodworks: I want to cut the mortise in this leg and then fit the tenon to it. #flairww -1:01 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Great. Now it’s Foo Fighters’ “Bridge Burning” on @993thefox as I work on my Trestle Table. #flairww -1:03 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I laid out the shoulder cuts for the tenon with a square. #flairww  -1:04 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @mtvtdmsfts Thanks for the RT. I hope you’re enjoying the build! #flairww -1:04 PM May 6th, 2012

luggermatt: @FlairWoodworks I’d turn the tunes off! -1:04 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Noooo! #flairww RT @luggermatt: @FlairWoodworks I’d turn the tunes off! -1:04 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @993thefox Can I hear Matt Mays & El Torpedo’s Building a Boat#flairww -1:05 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy I agree, music is the hamster on my brain’s treadmill! RT @FlairWoodworks: Noooo! #flairww RT @luggermatt: I’d turn the tunes off! -1:06 PM May 6th, 2012

luggermatt @HalfInchShy @FlairWoodworks Maybe just change the titles ;-) -1:06 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This stretcher is a real challenge to clamp. I should reinstall my Tucker vise. #flairww -1:09 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I could use a bigger joinery saw. #flairww -1:12 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy You could put a pull-saw in the kerf to finish it RT@FlairWoodworks: I could use a bigger joinery saw. #flairww -1:13 PM May 6th, 2012

LornaBourke @FlairWoodworks Or a backless japanese saw -1:14 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @HalfInchShy My only spineless fine-toothed saw is a flush-cut. #flairww -1:14 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used my flushcut saw to finish the cut, then a chisel and float to fine-tune it. #flairww -1:19 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Because of the grain angle, I couldn’t pare towards the shoulder so I used a pull float. #flairww -1:20 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Both end shoulders are cut. I’ll have to modify the middle “shoulders” too. #flairww -1:27 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I think I should maintain the angles. But I’ll need to clean up the raw surfaces. #flairww -1:28 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My work is, like the beer commercial says, “miles away from ordinary”. #flairww -1:28 PM May 6th, 2012

ChrisHasFlair RT @FlairWoodworks: My work is, like the beer commercial says, “miles away from ordinary”. #flairww -1:28 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is a very awkward cut. I wish I had a coping saw or fret saw with a longer blade. #flairww -1:33 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My stroke is limited to 1/8″. A keyhole saw would probably be a better tool here. It’s a tool I’ve NEVER used. #flairww -1:34 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I didn’t find my keyhole saw but I did find an edge float @GarthTW2 made. Thanks Garth! #flairww -1:39 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @GarthTW2 is, of course, my partner in Time Warp Tool Works #flairww -1:40 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One inside shoulder is done. #flairww -1:43 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks To cut the second inside shoulder, I clamped the stretcher in my Moxon vise. #flairww -1:46 PM May 6th, 2012

DyamiPlotke @FlairWoodworks why’d you uninstall it? -1:47 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I use cedar shims a lot in my shop. They are convenient and soft enough to not damage my workpiece. #flairww -1:48 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @DyamiPlotke I was supposed to be building a new bench a month ago… still haven’t gotten around to it. #flairww -1:48 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The Moxon vise is very versatile and useful… but not quite as good as a patternmaker’s vise. It’s a close second. #flairww -1:50 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The rough shaping of the tenon is done. Next – lay out the mortise. #flairww -1:53 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks These acute angles could be interesting. #flairww -2:06 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy See, now you’re doing crazy angles :) it’s contagious! RT @FlairWoodworks: These acute angles could be interesting. #flairww -2:07 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m going to drill out the bulk of the waste with my largest brad-point bit. #flairww -2:08 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ack! RT @HalfInchShy: See, now you’re doing crazy angles :) it’s contagious! #flairww -2:08 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I just applied some DriCote to the bit to see if it will eliminate that annoying squealing. #flairww -2:10 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy Wish that worked on people too MT @FlairWoodworks Applied some DriCote 2 the bit 2 see if it will eliminate that annoying squealing.#flairww -2:12 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Er… I meant the squealing from the bit, not from people like @HalfInchShy :) #flairww -2:13 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks And yes, it works. Somewhat. #flairww -2:13 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Could this mortise be cut with the Domino XL? Clamp a fence to the face of the leg and slide it along and plunge? #flairww -2:20 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy @FlairWoodworks Definitely; I’m sure you’ve made oversized mortises with your 500 that same way; plunge depth of 700 makes it easier. #flairww -2:22 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Let the chopping begin! I’ll do half from this side, then flip over the leg. #flairww -2:24 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks By the way, I would recommend DriCote to minimize drill bit squeal. Duct tape seems to work for people :) #flairww -2:25 PM May 6th, 2012

LaMacchiaDesign: @FlairWoodworks which patternmaker’s vice do you have? It’s on my list. I’m entering into the research phase. -2:27 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Tucker#flairww RT @LaMacchiaDesign: @FlairWoodworkswhich patternmaker’s vice do you have? -2:27 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @LaMacchiaDesign It’s a big investment, but worth every penny to me. #flairww -2:28 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I scored the outline of the mortise using my heavy steel straight edge and marking knife made by Derek Cohen#flairww -2:36 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy I think that’s called a diet patch as well :) MT @FlairWoodworks: Duct tape seems to work for people :) #flairww -2:36 PM May 6th, 2012

TheWoodBug Diet patch now that is funny, sorry for butting in @ Hafinchshy #flairww -2:38 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy haha, not butting in at all; had a ‘diet patch’ flyer on my cube wall and put a ‘free sample’ of duct tape @TheWoodBug: Diet patch #flairww -2:40 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy Awesome, your tweet flushed out a bot that subscribed to me :) RT @TheWoodBug: Diet patch now that is funny, sorry for butting in #flairww-2:42 PM May 6th, 2012

TheWoodBug one thing I never have in my shop -Duct tape , maybe I should get some, good for everything but “duct work” lol @HalfinchShy #flairww -2:44 PM May 6th, 2012

TheWoodBug Hey Chris your Table is coming along pretty nicely, For me out of shop off to bike mountain w Hounds Cheers guys @FlairWoodworks #flairww-2:46 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy The blue and green are good for chroma-key masks, too MT @TheWoodBug: Duct tape: good for everything but “duct work” lol #flairww -2:47 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Half-way there! These acute corners are a trick. They are too acute for my dovetail chisel. #flairww -2:55 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Dan! RT @TheWoodBug: Hey Chris your Table is coming along pretty nicely. Cheers guys @FlairWoodworks #flairww -2:56 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve transferred the layout lines to the other side. #flairww -3:07 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The mortises are almost done in this leg. I just need to do a little clean-up where the two cuts meet. #flairww -3:27 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used my fret saw to clean out the acute corner. #flairww -3:36 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Those cuts were barely within the capacity of my 5″ fret saw, but I was able to complete them without using a larger saw. #flairww -3:41 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Now to make the tenons fit into the mortises! #flairww -3:48 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Again, I’m using a float to adjust the tenons. I use the back of the float to check that the surfaces are flat. #flairww -3:55 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is one heck of a joint. So far, so good! #flairww -4:01 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I drove the leg on until it stopped dead, then marked its position on the tenon. #flairww -4:05 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Then I figure out what is causing the binding and work to remove the hump. #flairww -4:06 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Then I test the fit again and repeat. #flairww -4:08 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Good news: I’m making progress. Bad news: I cut the tenon over-length so I have a fair ways to go still. #flairww -4:35 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Where the mortise is tight on the tenon, it burnished the surface. It’s these areas I need to remove. #flairww -4:44 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Well, I’m not there yet, but I’m going to take a break for some food. #flairww -4:56 PM May 6th, 2012

Tumblewood @FlairWoodworks Nice honkin’ mortise! #flairww -7:15 PM May 6th, 2012

HalfInchShy @FlairWoodworks Wow, dude, you’re gone for a LOT of food…#flairww -9:00 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ha ha… back now. RT @HalfInchShy: @FlairWoodworks Wow, dude, you’re gone for a LOT of food… #flairww -9:01 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks When working on something like this where patience is key, it can help to take breaks. #flairww -9:12 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The last thing I want to do is rush this joint and either split the mortised piece or end up with a loose joint. #flairww -9:12 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m getting close! #flairww -9:23 PM May 6th, 2012

Tumblewood @FlairWoodworks Go Chris, go! -9:27 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks :D #flairww -9:29 PM May 6th, 2012

Tumblewood Indeed!! Big :oD !! RT @FlairWoodworks: :D #flairww -9:30 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The show side is quite respectable too. #flairww -9:30 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thank you! #flairww RT @malphrusoxide: @FlairWoodworks well done! -9:31 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks To save lifting the stretcher and leg out the top if the vise, I simply removed the vise chop. #flairww -9:35 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks You betcha! RT @Tumblewood: Indeed!! Big :oD !! RT@FlairWoodworks: :D #flairww -9:37 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Now, how to lay out the mortise in the other leg… #flairww -9:37 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m getting ahead of myself. I first need to finish the installation of the battens. #flairww -9:45 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I first surfaced the face of the batten so it was parallel with the tabletop. #flairww -10:02 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I want to use my router to create a parallel surface for the batten to rest. #flairww -10:09 PM May 6th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ll start with that tomorrow. I’m calling it a day. I’m happy with how I got the mortise and tenon to fit. #flairww -10:10 PM May 6th, 2012

I’ll fire up the router and finish installing the battens in Session 13.  What did you think of that mortise and tenon joint?  Let me know in the comments section!

2 thoughts on “Maple Trestle Table, Session 12 – Fitting the Mother of all Mortise & Tenon Joints

  1. Wow you cut those tenons much longer than intended; were you initially thinking of a decorative end to them? a wedge?

    A lot of awkward parts to handle and cut; the mortise looked fantastic.

    Still think a couple pocket screws and you could have called it a day… :)

    • Paul-Marcel,

      I left the tenons long to allow the option of leaving them proud. After assembling the joint, I decided that the look didn’t suit the piece so I trimmed them flush.

      Chris

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