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How to cut tenons on a table saw sled

 

A couple years ago I designed what I call Mega Sled. It's a table saw sled with all sorts of features, including extendable side supports, replaceable throat inserts and most importantly, a set of joinery jig attachments that slip onto the sled and make it possible to cut finger joints, splined miters, dovetails (both the tails and the pins), and tenons. We've made lots of videos about this sled, and its more compact cousin, the mini sled. You can watch those videos and get plans for the sleds and all the jigs here.

 

This time I want to show you how the tenon jig works. We'll cut a standard tenon, and a double tenon, and you can use these same skills to cut bridle joints, half laps and other related joinery. Even if you don't use my sled and tenon jig, you'll still learn some skills that you can apply to other table saw tenon cutting jigs. So, let's get started.

 

 

Watch the video...

...or read about it.

Whenever I cut a tenon like this, I like to use a knife to sever the fibers around the shoulder. This will reduce chip-out. If you really want to avoid chip-out, you may place a scrap of wood of the same thickness as your workpiece behind it in the jig. But in most cases, I find a good, deep knife cut will do the trick.

 

I place the end of my tenon stock on top of the mortise and use a pencil to mark the location of the cheeks. At this point I’m only concerned with the wide cheeks on the faces of the tenon stock, which are marked on the edge of the workpiece.

 

I slip my workpiece into the jig and place it against the perpendicular fence. Then I can clamp it in place by tightening the wing nuts. The entire jig slides along the fence so you can align the saw blade near your first cut line. Note I said near, not right on it. These lines are just guides, leave some room for error.

 

I make my first cut, then I rotate the workpiece 180-degrees and make a second cut, Now I can compare the width of the tenon to the mortise. Your eye is a better judge than you think. It’s likely that you didn’t hit the proper width on your first try, so go back to the jig remove some more material.

This time I want to show you how the tenon jig works. We'll cut a standard tenon, and a double tenon, and you can use these same skills to cut bridle joints, half laps and other related joinery. Even if you don't use my sled and tenon jig, you'll still learn some skills that you can apply to other table saw tenon cutting jigs. So, let's get started.

 

I'm using the Mega sled, but this jig will also work on the smaller, mini sled. It simply slides onto the fence, but before you lock it in place, we have some setup to do. I already cut my mortise with a router, making sure it was centered on the edge of the workpiece (which makes it a lot easier to cut the mating tenon, as you’ll see). Now I need to measure its depth with a combination square and transfer that measurement to the end of my workpiece. I can then use that line to set my saw blade's height above the surface of the sled.

My sled includes a set of micro adjusters than can be used with any of the jig attachments. Simply side it up to the jig and lock it to the fence. Loosen the wing nuts that secure the jig itself, then turn the wing nut on the side of the micro-adjuster to release the spring and nudge the jig's position in very small increments. This will help you take the smallest slices off the cheeks of your tenon through the same cut-rotate-cut process.

If you don't trust your eyesight to find the perfect fit, then leave the tenon a little wide. Leave the micro adjuster in place and move the jig out of the way. Now you can use the crosscut sled to trim the shoulders of the tenon and get that waste out of the way.

 

You only need to raise your blade high enough to cut up to the kerf, you don't have to raise it all the way up to the tenon. If you cut on your shoulder line you'll have a nice, crisp corner. Now you can check the fit in your mortise more easily and return to the jig to trim more off the cheeks if needed. (By leaving that micro adjuster locked to the fence, it's easy to get the it right back where you left off.)

There is an easier way, of course, which I'll demonstrate as I cut the other two cheeks. Instead of making my first cut right by my line, I start from the outside and nibble away all the waste one pass at a time, working toward the center. As I do, I simply check the fit in the mortise, removing more material as needed until it's perfect. This takes a few more cuts, but some people find it gives them more accurate shoulders.

 

And of course, if you cut your mortise with a router bit, you'll have to round off the ends of the tenon with a rasp.

That's how you cut a standard tenon, now let's take it a step farther by cutting a double tenon.

 

Again, when I routed my mortises, I made them equal in distance from the edge of the work piece. I lay out the matching tenons on my workpiece, but again, these lines are just guides.

 

I begin cutting from the outside with the same cut-rotate-cut process as before. I don't cut right up to the lines at first, just close to them. Then I eyeball the fit.

 

Once the outsides look good, I can remove the waste in the center. This is where keeping the mortises evenly spaced pays off. I can begin removing material from between the lines, slowly widening the gap with the cut-rotate-cut process.

Again, once I get close to the lines, I check the fit, then remove more material as needed. Once the tenons slip into the mortises I mark their width and go back to the jig to begin trimming the other cheeks.

The same process used to make double tenons can be used to create lap and bridle joints, so you can do even more with your table saw sled. Remember to click the link in the notes below this video to see more videos about the sleds and all the jig attachments. You can get plans there as well. And be sure to check out the latest issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal. It's always full of great tips, tricks and tutorials designed to make you a better woodworker. You can read and subscribe for free at stumpynubs.com. Happy tenoning!

 

Videos and plans for the sled and all the jigs (Tenon, box joint, spline, dovetail)

 

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-Ridge carbide (Best out there) Flat-Kerf Box Joint Blade

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-Freud (cheaper option)

 

 

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