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Common Methods for Joining Wood

Most wood projects will need joints, whether you’re making a table, birdhouse or simple box. We’ll show you some different joint types as well as how to use various tools and jigs to get the perfect joint for your project in this guide.

A person uses a power drill to screw in a wood screw.

Butt Joint

Butt joints are the most common and easiest type of joint to use. Simply place the end of one piece of wood up against the top side of the other and screw them together to create a 90-degree joint. Dowels can also be used instead of screws. This is one of the weakest joints however, so you may want to use one of the next methods if you require something a bit sturdier.

: A staple gun attaches two pieces of wood at the corner.

Mitre Joint

A mitred joint is one where the wood is cut at opposing 45-degree angles and joined together, so that no end grain is shown. It is similar in strength to the standard butt joint.

A person assembles two pieces of lumber using pocket holes.

Pocket Joint

Pocket joints help hide screw holes and can create a clean, seamless look. A pocket hole jig helps here as you can choose a consistent depth ans angle to make things easier. These joints require you to drill through the side of one piece diagonally into the next piece, joining them from underneath.

Dowel Joint

Dowel joints are good if you don’t want to drill or use glue. Dowel holes are cut into both ends of the wood and held together by small, cylindrical dowels.

A person assembles a biscuit joint.

Biscuit Joint

A biscuit joint is a great way of joining multiple pieces of wood together for projects like tabletops, cabinets and other flat-surfaces. You’ll need a biscuit joiner that cuts the shape of a half-biscuit into each side of the wood, then you just attach them together with a wooden circle known as a biscuit, like in the picture above.

Dado Joint

A dado joint is where a cut is made into one piece of wood matching the size of the adjoining piece of wood. The pieces are then placed together and screwed or glued, creating a strong joint. A table saw equipped with a dado stack is the easiest way to do this, but you can also make small cuts close together with a regular table saw blade and then chisel them out to create the cut out.

Wood is glued and ready to assemble using a rabbet joint.

Rabbet Joint

A rebated joint or rabbet joint, is the same as a dado joint, but the cut is in the edge of the board.  It is an L-shaped notch that accommodates another board, creating a flush look when fastened with a screw or some wood glue.

Half-Lap Joint

A half-lap joint is where the same thickness is cut away from two boards with the same dimension, allowing them to join without adding any additional height. It can also act as a way to splice two boards together for extra length.

A tongue and groove joint is shown close up.

Tongue and Groove Joint

A tongue and groove joint is most commonly found in flooring and siding. A board is cut so there is a small protrusion from the middle across the entire width (the tongue). The connecting board has the middle hollowed away (the groove) to create a tight fit for the tongue from the other piece.

A mortise and tenon joint is shown just before being inserted.

Mortise and Tenon Joint

One of the most classic looking and elegant ways of joining wood is the mortise and tenon joint. A peg, or tenon, is cut into the end of one board to fit snugly into a hole, or mortise, on the adjoining piece of lumber to create a strong joint. This can be further strengthened with wood glue.

A corner bridle joint is shown half-inserted.

Corner Bridle Joint

A corner bridle joint is kind of a combination of a mortise and tenon joint and a tongue and groove joint. On a table saw, use a dado blade with the cut height set to the width of the stock. Cut a centered groove into the top of one piece and then trim the connecting piece to fit within that groove.

A finished dovetail joint is shown.

Dovetail Joint

One of the nicest looking joints, a dovetail is not only beautiful but it’s strong as well. The sections are cut out using a dovetail jig on an angle so that they slip together with very little wiggle room. They’re also visible once the piece is complete, creating a great aesthetic.

Three box joints are shown on separate boxes.

Box Joint

The box joint is a simplified version of the dovetail joint, where notches are cut away in an alternating pattern, allowing the wood pieces to slide together seamlessly. You can hand cut them or use a dado stack to get the perfect width and consistency.

How to Choose the Right Type of Joint?

Certain joints are better suited for specific projects, so think about which joint you should use for maximum efficacy. No matter which joint you choose, there’s usually a tool or jig that can help make the job easier. Here are some tips to help you out.

Joint Type Best For Special Tools
Butt Joint Picture frames, wall framing None
Mitre Joint Wall décor, picture frames Mitre saw
Biscuit Joint Plywood projects, casework, joining multiple boards together Plate joiner
Pocket Joint Face frames, Cabinets, connecting edges and angled joints Pocket hole jig
Dowel Joint Furniture, projects where visible nails or screws are not desirable Dowels
Dado Joint Shelving, drawers, bookcase, cabinets None
Rabbet Joint Bottoms of drawers and boxes, back of cabinets None
Half Lap Joint Cabinet door frames, outdoor furniture, workbenches, framework of furniture pieces Table saw
Tongue and Groove Tabletops, hardwood flooring, wooden paneling, parquets None
Mortise and Tenon Chair legs, table legs and projects that require a strong joint Band saw, mortise and tenon jig
Corner Bridle Framing, load-bearing furniture like bench and table legs Table saw
Dovetail Joint Drawers Router, dovetail jig
Box Joint Decorative box corners, drawers Table saw, router, dovetail jig

Common Wood Joining Tools & Materials

Wood Joint Reinforcements

Hand Tools

Power Tools

Related Resources