What are Tenon Cutters?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Tenon cutters are woodworking tools which are used to create tenons for mortise and tenon joints. In a mortise and tenon joint, a projection of wood known as a tenon is inserted into a slot called a mortise. The two pieces fit tightly and snugly together, creating a strong joint which can be reinforced with glue. There are a wide variety of mortise and tenon joints utilized by the woodworking community, and having a specialized tool can make the task of cutting such joints much easier and more efficient.

Companies usually design specialized tenon cutters to make round tenons and dowels. The tenon cutter fits over the end of the piece of wood being cut, and bites into it to create a tenon. Some tenon cutters will only make tenons, while others make dowels as well. The width of the tenon is determined by the size of the tenon cutter. The alternative to using a tool is to shape the tenon by hand, a tedious process which can also result in an imprecise tenon. This type of tenon is classically used on log furniture and in the assembly of log homes.


Powered tenon cutters are available for people who like to use power tools, along with hand cutters which are designed to be used by hand. Some people have a preference for one or the other, depending on the kinds of jobs they are doing. In all cases, the device should be well cared for to ensure that it will function for a lifetime. Proper care includes wiping down the tenon cutter after use, oiling moving parts, and storing it in a dry place so that it will not acquire rust.

Tenon cutters are also available to make tenons of other shapes, such as squared tenons. These tenons are usually sold in the form of a tenon jig, although people can also use regular jigs and routers to make many types of tenons. Using a tenon cutter ensures that the tenon is even and precise, so that when a mortise is cut, the tenon will fit snugly inside. A loose connection will weaken the joint, making it more likely to fail in the long term.

Selecting the right woodworking joint for the job can sometimes be a challenge. There are aesthetic considerations to take into account as well as concerns about the strength and durability of the joint. Some people find it helpful to make practice examples of different kinds of joints so that they can see how they work and use this knowledge in their woodworking projects. Practice also gives people a chance to get accustomed to new tools before using them on wood being used in a project.


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