Mastering the Tenon

Updated: May 13, 2020

Making Tenons. There's a whole bunch of ways to make them, but none simpler and quicker than this. There was a time long ago when tenons were somewhat esoteric, but now it's something I take for granted. What you need is a good stable saw like the DW745, a dado blade, a Japanese pull saw, a sanding block and a sharp chisel.

Many table saws will do the trick, but I do not recommend the cheapest. For example, I tried the Ryobi intro model and it vibrated and shook so much that you could just throw accuracy out the window. The DW745 is good because it's compact, strong, accurate, has the best fence on the market for what it is, and is somewhat vibration free.

Someone will inevitably point out that you aren't supposed to put a dado blade in the DW745. Yet I do and so far so good. It is breaking rules though, so do it at your own risk. Or you could go with the next size up, pay a couple hundred dollars more and not worry about it. I have the DeWalt upgrade from the DW745 and it is SWEET.

The Dado blade is just the $100 set sold at the home stores. Whether Home Depot or Lowe's, it doesn't matter. One is Irwin. The other is Freud (at least last I checked) and both are made by the same company in Italy, but painted different colors.

The Japanese pull saw though, I'm pretty partial to and would argue that it's one of the only good hand tools left that the home stores will actually sell. For the money, the Irwin dovetail saw that Lowe's sells is top of the line, and there's just nothing else that compares.

Two tools the video doesn't show, because they were unnecessary the time, are a sanding block and a sharp chisel. Sometimes your tenon is just a hair too fat and you need something to quickly whittle the thickness down. We're talking like 1/32" of an inch or so. That's half of a 1/16". I didn't need these in this video because I had the dado blade adjusted to exactly the right height.

Oh, and the sled. You can use the miter guage that comes with your saw, but the sled is better because, made properly, it backs up the dado blade cut and eliminates blowout. You can see an example of blowout at the end of the video where there's a chunk blown off of my workpiece. That happened because my sled is worn out and I need to make a new one. That happens after a year or so of use. But making a sled isn't hard. You fashion yourself a piece of wood that snuggly fits into the miter guage slot, and then attach that to a flat scrap board, perpendicular to the slot, and so that the scrap board reaches the blade.

So that's it. It's quick and easy. And for you window crafters out there, this is what you'd do to make that bottom rail with tenons on both ends for that bottom sash that's rotted out.

Theres nothing esoteric about my methods here. Just easy tenons on easily obtainable tools.

Happy tenoning!

Sincerely, The General

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