An Introduction to
Woodworking Joints

Limiting yourself to using just a few basic woodworking joints also limits what you can achieve with your woodworking projects. On the other hand, learning new methods of woodworking joinery will teach you new skills and open up a whole new world of creativity.

A master craftsman may use several different joints to create a strong, functional and visually appealing piece of furniture, with each joint adding to the overall effect. But, to get to this stage, a proper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each wood working joint is necessary.

The links below will cover most of the joinery methods in use today. Each wood joint will be discussed in enough detail to give you a better understanding of how it's made, it's strengths and where it's most often put to use.

I've used Google SketchUp to make many of the illustrations for the pages linked below. It's an easy to learn 3D modeling software available from Google for free.

It's a lot of fun to use and you can model your projects to see what they'll look like before you build them. You can download it for free off Google's website.

Box joint

Box joint.

We've all seen those nicely handcrafted jewelry boxes, keepsake boxes and even tool boxes made using box joints at the corners. The contrast of the end grain against the straight grain gives this joint it's attractive appearance.

With the extra gluing surface provided by the interlocking fingers, and because it uses the straight grain of the wood, the box joint is also very strong. A woodworker with a fertile imagination will find many uses for this woodworking joint.

Dado joint

Dado joint.

One of the most widely used woodworking joints is the dado joint. It is commonly found in the construction of bookcases, cabinetry and many other types of furniture where large panels are used.

Sooner or later most woodworkers will run into a situation where they'll need to use this joint, so getting the mastery over it early on is a good idea. It's not hard to make, but like any other wood joint, it needs to be cut accurately for a good fit.

Dowel joint

Dowel joint.

A dowel joint is most often used as a reinforcement for other woodworking joints. Glue is applied to the wooden rods (or dowels) and then the dowels are inserted into holes drilled in the two workpieces to be joined or reinforced.

Dowel joints are a relatively strong woodworking joint when done right, but loose fitting dowels and dowels made from inferior materials will result in weak joints that will take little stress before failing. Straight, sharp drill bits will help ensure properly fitting dowels.

Rabbet joint

Double rabbet joint.

In it's simplest form, the rabbet joint is just a recess cut across the end or down the edge of a workpiece into which another board is glued. Like many other joints though, the rabbet has it's variations.

The rabbet or rebate joint is often mistakenly called a rabbit joint. I'm not sure where this confusion originates (rabbits have big pointy ears and buck teeth), but I thought I'd clear the air for any misinformed readers before we get any further into this article.

Spline joint

Miter spline joint.

A spline joint is created when a wooden spline is inserted and glued into a slot or groove that has been cut in another woodworking joint, usually a butt, edge or mitered joint.

The spline serves to reinforce the joint and help keep the two sections aligned with each other. This small enhancement adds considerable strength to whatever joint it's applied to.