There is nothing more satisfying for a woodworker than to watch two pieces of wood become perfectly mated together as you tighten the screws, set the mortise and tenon, or slide the dovetails together. Creating the perfect joint that permanently turns two pieces of wood into a seamless, enduring creation is after all, the essence of what we do in our shops.
But perfect joinery is also the hardest thing to master. There is simply no room for the slightest error. One miniscule mistake of cutting or even sanding can turn a carefully honed piece of your final product into nothing more than scrap lumber. But fear not, my humble beginner, for you are in good company. Every woodworker on earth can point to a heap of scraps. You’re in good company.
What separates the Greats from the Rookies in the shop is more about knowledge and the right tools than it is about superhuman skills. So, let’s get you equipped with some of the Right Stuff it takes to bring your woodworking to the next level with 7 wood joinery techniques that are sure to “Up” your game.
Human beings have been using some form of glue to hold things together since a caveman in what is now Italy figured out that he could hold two rocks together with birch bark tar to create a simple axe. Humans have come a long way since that day, and so has glue.
While there are many types of glue on the market, the one best suited for wood joinery is commonly known as “carpenter’s glue” or “yellow glue” because, well, carpenters use it and it is yellow. Technically, it is known as Aliphatic Resin Emulsion. It adheres well to wood, doesn’t require a thick application, and lasts a long time.
The best glue joinery involves smooth, well-matched edges. A small amount of glue is spread thinly across both joint faces and the pieces are firmly clamped together until the glue dries. Excess glue that seeps out of the joint will seal the wood grain and spoil any chance of staining the wood. There are two schools of thought on how to deal with excess glue. One is to wipe it away immediately with a damp cloth. This can work if the amount of excess glue is small. However, if you have large gobs of glue squeezing out, trying to wipe it away can result in spreading the glue over more of the surface area that you are trying to protect. A better choice may be to let the glue dry until it begins to darken in color, then trim it away with a sharp chisel.
Gluing is so fundamental that it is an essential element of every other form of joinery that we are going to discuss. You won’t get away from glue, so learn how to use it correctly.