Joining two pieces of wood together where the end grains are meeting can be tricky. Gluing these wood fibers creates a weak bond due to the porous nature of the wood. In the moments when you find yourself needing to join various pieces of end-to-end joints, there is hope. You must use a reinforcement of some kind to make the connection stronger. This includes screws, plates and dowels. Here are some popular solutions and how to make them work for you.
Use Metal or Plywood Straps
If you are working with a piece that will be hidden or when appearance doesn’t matter, consider using metal or plywood straps. Make a strap from ¼” plywood to provide a stronger gluing surface. This will also help to save some money.
- Start by cutting the strap as wide as your piece will allow. When you work with molding or other pieces that have a profile on the opposite face, you need to locate the screw holes over the thickest profile points.
- Simply glue and screw one side of your strap to the piece of work.
- Once that glue has dried, do the same to the other half of the strap and clamp the assembly to any flat surface. You can also add mounting screws to the back of the piece if you want it to be stronger.
A spline is a strip of plywood or other material that is inserted into matching plows or grooves. This is done along the edges of two boards as a way to align and reinforce the edges. Sometimes a spline is used as a substitute for tongue and groove.
Follow these steps when working with splines in joinery:
- Mark each joint on the top and set your saw blade half the length of the splines.
- Place the top faces against the rip fence for a consistent groove.
- Use the backer block to prevent tear-out.
- Cut kerfs on ends to form a groove as wide as the one-third thickness of the stock.
- Plane and saw the spline stock to match the depth and width of the grooves.
- Insert the spline.
- Glue and clamp your pieces.
The dowel joint is another option when you need an invisible solution. On top of that, it is an easy solution. Simply butt the pieces and mark the dowel positions accordingly. Then, position the doweling jig over top of the marks and drill your holes 1/16” deeper than half the dowel’s length.
Spread glue over one piece within the holes and insert the dowels. Clamp this to a flat surface to dry. With the other piece, you’ll want to glue the end grain and holes. Then, force your pieces together and clamp them together until dry. It’s really that easy.
If you need a quick solution that is easy and strong, try installing pocket-hole screws. Just use a pocket-hole jig, such as the Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System, to drill an angled hole through the workpiece and into the other. Then, insert a screw into the hole to hold both pieces together.
The handy video above shows a quick tutorial on the best way to use a pocket hole jig.
Basic Half-Lap Joints
You can create basic half-lap joints easily on a router table or table saw. This creates a strong, face-to-face gluing surface that looks great.
Follow these instructions to complete a half-lap joint:
- Mark your cuts.
- Cut a dado from your marked joint lines to the ends.
- Test-fit the joint and be aware of gaps between laps.
- Glue and clamp the laps.
Bevel-Cut Scarf JointsIf you cut the ends at an angle before joining them, more of the long grain is exposed and a better bond is created. The sharper the angle created, the more gluing surface will be available. To match the angles perfectly, cut one end to one side of your saw blade while cutting the opposite end on the other side.
This ensures that all pieces will mate evenly no matter what angle you are cutting it. Then, simply clamp the lower piece against a flat surface and clamp the upper piece down against the bevel. If need be, align them with a straightedge.
Miter-Cut Scarf Joints
This joint is much like the Bevel-Cut Scarf Joint we discussed above, but with the miter cut instead.
Start by creating a 4:1 angle guide that is more than double the width of your workpieces. Use identical cleats to keep it positioned.
- Mark the angles on both of your pieces and bandsaw them within 1/32” of the lines.
- Trim your work down all the way to the waste line.
- Flip the guide upside down so you can rout the other piece.
- Glue your mitered edges together, clamp both pieces to a flat surface so they don’t slip as you clamp the joint together.
Tabled Lap Joints
With a tabled lap joint, you have the strength of interconnecting parts and a large glue surface as well. Follow these directions for your perfect joint:
- Add ¼” to your workpiece width.
- Measure that distance from the end.
- Mark both of the pieces at the same time.
- Duplicate these on a pair of test pieces.
- Use the same dado setup as you would with a basic half-lap but set the blade height to one-third of the thickness of the workpieces.
- Rabbet both parts as well as your test pieces from the edge of the markings to the ends.
- Reset the dado blade height to two-thirds the thickness of your workpieces.
- Test and adjust the dado depth on scrap pieces until the thicker portion rests within the thin portion.
- Measure from the shoulder of the dado to your distance that equaled one-half the width of your workpiece. Place a mark at that location.
- Clamp both pieces to the miter gauge and make two passes to determine the width of your second pair of dadoes.
- Cut the remaining dadoes so they are flush.
- Gradually trim all the ends until both fit the deeper dadoes.
- Glue and clamp the pieces together.
Picking the best way to join your pieces of wood together will be mostly a personal decision. It will be based on the effort you want to put forth and the quality of work you want to complete. As you’ve seen, there are simple ways to join wood and more complex jobs as well.
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