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A butt joint is the easiest and simplest of all wood joints (Fig. 1). Widely used in construction carpentry and production cabinetry, butt joints are rarely used in fine woodworking. A butt joint is inherently weak, depending almost totally on the strength of the glue and fasteners used (nails, staples, or screws). To greatly increase the strength of butt joints, you can reinforce the connection with metal angles, dowels, or plates (biscuits).

Making a Butt Joint:
• Using a square, make sure the end of the wood being butted against the surface of the adjoining piece is perfectly square.
• Use the square to mark the surface to be joined so that the two pieces will be at perfect right angles to one another.
• Join the wood with glue and mechanical fasteners (or use dowels or plates).

Miter joints
Miter joints hide the end grain of adjoining boards and are wood joints commonly used for picture frames, door and window trim, and around openings. Miter joints are weak joints-probably weaker than butt joints. In fact, a miter joint is a form of butt joint, with the angle at the corner halved (bisected)

between the two pieces being joined. Just like butt joints, miter joints can be strengthened with dowels, splines, or plates (biscuits).
Perhaps the quickest way to make wood joints and the most accurate way to make a miter joint is with a power miter saw (chop saw). You can also use a quality miter box and backsaw-or a combination saw that has eight or more teeth to the inch.
The most common miter joints are cut at 45degree angles and joined for 90-degree corners (Fig. 2). However, you can vary the angle to fit the project. A hexagonal (six-sided) box, for example, requires you to make 30-degree cuts (Fig. 3).

Using a Miter Box. Cutting miters using a miter box and backsaw is easy. Before you make the final cuts in good wood, practice a few times. Here are the steps to follow:
• Set the miter box at the correct angle. In all cases, the number of degrees you set should be exactly half of the total corner angle. The instructions that come with an adjustable miter box will show you how to set the angles. If you have a simple wooden miter box, you may be limited to 45 and 90-degree cuts - although you can create kerf guides for other angles by sawing through the sides of the miter box.
• Position the first piece of wood firmly in the box and cleanly cut the angle on the end.
Note: Protect the bottom of the miter box from saw cuts by placing scrap wood on the bottom of the box.
• Establish the angle and mark the cut on the adjoining piece of wood. The angle should be the same as for the first piece; however, it is not unusual to make minor adjustments for the best fit.
There are three good ways to do that:

• Cut a scrap piece to the same angle as the first piece and see how it fits. If necessary, adjust the angle and try again until the fit is right. Then cut the second piece.
• If your second piece is long enough, cut the end to the same angle as the first piece and try the fit. If it's sloppy, adjust the angle and cut again.
• Directly mark the cut angle on the second piece by using the first piece as a guide. Align the two pieces in their proper position (and at the correct angle), with the cut piece on top of the uncut piece. Using a very sharp pencil, trace the angle of the top piece onto the bottom piece. Adjust the miter box to the marked angle. Carefully position the wood so the saw blade cuts through the center of the pencil line.
• Cut the other joints the same way as the first one.
Note: If you end up cutting a miter slightly long (but not long enough to easily trim with a handsaw), you
can carefully trim it with a sharp block plane, abrasive, or a table saw. It is better to cut too long than too short. If you cut the stock too short you have to start over again.
• When all the-pieces are cut, apply glue to all mitered ends and lock them together with finish nails driven through pilot holes slightly smaller than the diameter of the nails. Wipe off excess glue completely with a damp rag.
• Drive the nailheads below the surface with a nail set. Fill the holes with wood filler or putty that matches the wood.

Lap joints are most commonly used in furniture construction, kitchen cabinet frames, and similar projects. Full laps are used when boards of different thicknesses are to be joined, for example, a 1x4 to a 2x4. The 2x4 is notched 3/4 inch (the thickness of a 1x4) to receive the thinner member.
Half laps are generally used when joining two pieces of the same thickness. Each piece is notched half its thickness to complete the joint.
The most common lap joints are the end or corner lap (Fig. 4), the cross lap (Fig. 5), and the middle lap (Fig. 6). A variation is the dovetail lap where the joined pieces are locked together, resulting in an extremely strong joint (Fig. 7).

Making a Corner Half Lap. Using a table saw is an efficient way to make a half lap.

Caution: When using a table saw, keep your fingers and clothing clear of the blade, wear safety glasses, and use hearing protection.
• Mark the overlap by measuring in from the end of each board by the width of the stock. Square the line across both boards.
• Set the height of the saw blade to half the thickness of a board.
• Align and cut across both boards in one pass. 0 Make repeated cross-cut passes across the waste area of each board, until you have removed all of the waste. Clean up the laps with a sharp chisel.
• Lap the pieces and check the fit. Use a sharp block plane or abrasive to shave protruding ends flush.
• Glue and clamp the two pieces together. Reinforce with screws or nails, if desired.

Handsawing a Middle Lap:

Make sure the pieces are square, then carefully mark the width of the crosspiece on the receiving piece (Fig. 8). Use a sharp pencil that makes a fine line. Mark gauge lines on both pieces indicating the depth of cut.
• Clamp the receiving piece to the workbench and carefully cut along the inner edges of the pencil lines down to the proper depth. Make an additional cut in the middle.
• Chisel away waste wood, working from either end toward the center (Fig. 9).
• Clamp the crosspiece securely and cut along the gauge line just to the mark indicating the required depth (Fig. 10). Then cut across the shoulder line and remove the waste wood.
• Glue and clamp the two pieces together. Reinforce with screws or nails, if desired.

Rabbet joints are frequently used for drawers, bookcases, cabinets, and similar projects.
The joint is formed by cutting a recess (rabbet) in the end of one piece to accommodate the thickness of a second piece.
• Mark the width of the rabbet directly by placing one board on edge flush with the end of the other piece.
• Set the height of the table saw blade (half the thickness of the wood is standard).
• Make a face cut to the waste side of the line you drew to mark the width of the rabbet.
• Make repeated cross-cut passes across the waste area of the board until you have removed all the waste. Clean up the rabbet with a sharp chisel. Join the pieces with glue and fasteners.


Dadoes are channels cut across the grain of a board into which a second piece of wood is fitted. Variations include a stopped or grain dado, a stopped housed dado, and a dovetail dado. Dado cuts can be made with power or hand tools.

Butt joints reinforced by dowels are very strong. Holes for dowels must be perfectly aligned and you can do this with a doweling jig. Also, the edges of the boards to be joined must be square (Fig. 12).
• Clamp the boards together. Use a pencil and combination square to draw a straight line across both pieces at the point where they will be doweled. Remove the clamp.
• Align the jig. Put the doweling jig on the first piece, clamping the jig in place after sighting the penciled line. Markings on the jig will help the alignment.
• Insert the drill bit into the jig guide and drill a hole that is slightly deeper than half the length of the dowel pin (use a piece of tape on the drill bit as a depth gauge). Repeat on the other piece of wood. Most joints have 2 or 3 dowels.
• Coat each dowel pin with glue and insert the dowels into the holes in one of the pieces. Apply glue to the mating area of the other piece, align the dowels with the holes, and fit the two pieces together.
• Clamp the pieces together. Wipe off excess adhesive. Sand and finish.

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Updated: 08/2017   copyright 2012 U-Repair.com