Q&A: Is it possible to make mortise and tenon joints without a mortise machine or drill press?

Is it possible to make mortise and tenon joints without a mortise machine or drill press? I know I can cut the tenons on the table saw, but what about the mortises? Router table with a straight bit and chisel out the corners? Any tips for this?

Where are the band-aids?---Pro Libertate!


You can drill out the meat and square up with a chisel or make a router jig and plunge with a straight bit (up cut spiral bits are best if you have one). Then either square up the corners with chisel or round the corners of your tenon to match


A pantorouter may be of interest

Regards Rob

Use a hammer and chisel. Come at it from both sides and meet in the middle. Practice on a scrap piece until you get the results your looking for. Good luck


This has been accomplished for centuries; and in my opinion is best achieved in a two-step process.

First… there is the choice of what type of tenon do you want: an Integral Tenon or Floating. An Integral tenon is a natural extension of the wood itself; that is, of the two mating pieces, one piece has a tenon protruding from it; whereas a Floating tenon joints two mating pieces which both have mortises: the tenon traverses the two pieces. From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of M&T work is now done via Floating tenons.

1) The mortise – a normal router with a straight bit (or a flush-trim bit used inside a template) whose travel is secured in some manner – YouTube has a few hundred videos of individuals making mortising jigs. If you’re going to be doing a lot of woodworking, the Festool Domino system is both foolproof and expensive – well worth the money, though.

The router makes quick work of the mortise… though, you have to make the cut is several passes, usually.

2) The Tenon (Floating tenons, specifically) – these are easier than you might initially expect. Use your table saw to rip a thin piece of scrap wood (make it a tough wood such as maple or oak) – the wood piece should be slightly larger than the mortise(s) in all three dimensions (length, width and thickness); then trim the width on the table saw to slightly more than the width of the mortise; round-over the piece on the router table; sand to the exact thickness – dry-fits are usual practice.

While this sounds like a lot to do, it’s not as time-consuming as it sounds.