Updated September 07, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

The 9 Best Tenoning Jigs

video play icon
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive

This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Having the right tools means easier and faster results for any project. These tenoning jigs accommodate angled joints and miters, offer superior cutting accuracy, and save you time between cuts. They're perfect for making custom furniture, such as cabinets, dressers and desks. We've included both professional quality models and those perfect for the home DIYer. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best tenoning jig on Amazon.

9. Trend Varijig

8. Scribe-Master Cope-Pro

7. Rockler Heavy-Duty

6. Trend MT/JIG

5. Oshlun 6-Inch

4. General Tools 870

3. Shop Fox W1500

2. Leigh FMT Pro

1. Powermatic PM-TJ

The Ancient Art Of Woodworking

Amazingly, these specimens have been around since 7000 B.C.E., and they owe much of their longevity to their mortise-and-tenon design.

Wood is one of the oldest and most important substances to humanity. It was the first dense fuel used for fires, made up the first tools, and still to this day helps to house billions of people. Humans initially used wood for primitive tools such as clubs and digging sticks, though woodworkers began to craft more complex items such as folding stools as early as the 14th century B.C.E. Simple stones such as flint were the first woodworking implements, and as woodworking developed, craftsmen moved on to increasingly resilient materials such as copper and bronze.

The ancient Egyptians are well-known for their prowess with wood, thanks not only to many drawings depicting the workers and the structures they built; researchers in the last 100 years have uncovered and excavated huge numbers of finely-crafted wooden artifacts, many of which are in exceptional shape, thanks to being locked up underground for thousands of years, away from sunlight, intense heat, and moisture. For that reason, some Egyptian specimens have given insight into the advanced, yet archaic techniques used so long ago.

Among the most impressive pieces of carpentry ever recovered, the Khufu Ship was a ceremonial boat likely used during King Cheops' burial rites. While it lacks the trappings of a functional sailing ship, anthropologists agree that it would almost certainly float, and as such it may have been used as the final vessel to take the King to the afterlife. It was disassembled and interred in Khufu's tomb, only to be painstakingly reconstructed by scientists thousands of years later. Today, it lives in a museum and represents the oldest window we have into the skillful technique of Egyptian woodworkers, and displays similar fastener-less joints to those still made today.

While the Khufu Ship was possibly the largest, complete wooden artifact ever recovered, the title of oldest goes to some shockingly well-preserved architecture in the city of Leipzig, just southwest of Berlin. Amazingly, these specimens have been around since 7000 B.C.E., and they owe much of their longevity to their mortise-and-tenon design.

The Romans and Chinese of antiquity are two other civilizations renowned for prolific and high-end woodwork. Ancient Rome left very few wooden artifacts for modern anthropologists to study, but there are many volumes written about topics such as how to craft and join wooden parts, and even which trees make the best lumber, as well as how to grow them. The Chinese were renowned for joinery that didn't use glue or nails, instead relying on ingenuity and engineering to hold objects together. Such fastener-less construction was then and still is a highly respected way to construct wooden items.

Tools Of The Trade

The axe and its relative the adze were among the earliest metal tools, and were often joined in a double-headed configuration that later inspired the pickaxe. Roman engineering introduced a wealth of new and useful tools, such as forged nails, the claw hammer, a precursor to the hacksaw, the wood plane, the auger, and more. The focus of carpentry shifted during Europe's Dark Ages and medieval times, when large portions of human knowledge and technology were forsaken following the utter collapse of the Roman Empire. Artistic endeavors continued, such as incredibly intricate carvings based on Christian concepts, but advanced woodworking dropped off significantly during this period, much like written history itself. Construction did continue faster than ever, though, as citizens and military alike built more and more structures to house themselves and reinforce defenses.

By the 16th century, carpentry began to explode thanks to the proliferation of British sawmills. Government and investors took steps as bold as the founding of the American colonies, partially to gain more resources for ship-building. Volume and efficiency ramped up during the Industrial Revolution, as innovations like the steel circular saw and cut nails made woodworkers' jobs easy. But no matter how complex technology became, a nearly 10,000-year-old technique remained one of the most popular and effective joint configurations.

Now That's Quite the Joint

While unfamiliar to many non-carpenters, tenons are actually quite simple. They're somewhat akin to inserting a plug into an outlet; the male end (the tenon) is honed to fit into the female end (the mortise) at a 90-degree angle, and with an absolute minimum of play. Today, these joints are often secured with dowel rods, nails, or glue. The real magic of this joint, however, is in the most expert projects; an exceptionally skilled carpenter can craft mortise and tenon joints so exact that they result in a rock-solid structure without using any fasteners whatsoever. In fact, the joint's high strength leads to its use in many large, load-bearing structures, even including small buildings.

This configuration holds the wooden framing in place at a predetermined angle, and the entire assembly moves along the table saw.

In modern times, the Amish are well-known for their high standards and devotion to handcrafting — both of which apply directly to the mortise and tenon. If, unlike the Amish, you're open to using power tools, there are two specific means to creating a near-perfect joint using modern accessories. One type of apparatus is built to fit with certain standardized table saws. This configuration holds the wooden framing in place at a predetermined angle, and the entire assembly moves along the table saw. It's a relatively quick way to shave off extraneous material, although table saws tend to have somewhat wide clearances.

Alternately, smaller projects that require extremely close tolerances generally call for a router-based jig. These units affix to a workbench or other solid surface and hold the unfinished frame securely in their center. The exact position of the wood is set, and the carpenter uses a router to carve the plank into a tenon. This method takes a bit longer than simply running a specimen across a table saw, but it can result in significantly higher strength, sometimes without the need for glue or nails. Whatever size your project, and whichever tool you use to complete it, knowing how to create a quality mortise-and-tenon joint is a basic skill the mastery of which will benefit any woodworker, whether beginner or expert.

Statistics and Editorial Log

0
Paid Placements
4
Editors
26
Rendering Hours
11,510
Users
21
Updates

Granular Revision Frequency


Christopher Thomas
Last updated on September 07, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.


Thanks for reading the fine print. About the Wiki: We don't accept sponsorships, free goods, samples, promotional products, or other benefits from any of the product brands featured on this page, except in cases where those brands are manufactured by the retailer to which we are linking. For more information on our rankings, please read about us, linked below. The Wiki is a participant in associate programs from Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, Target, and others, and may earn advertising fees when you use our links to these websites. These fees will not increase your purchase price, which will be the same as any direct visitor to the merchant’s website. If you believe that your product should be included in this review, you may contact us, but we cannot guarantee a response, even if you send us flowers.