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How Joinery Gives Furniture Strength and Beauty

by Bison, Jun 21 2017

Cheap furniture manufactured overseas is usually nothing more than particle board and plywood glued together with a veneer slapped on top. Or they just send you the pieces so you can put it together with an Allen wrench.


The veneer is made to look like separate boards, but it’s just a razor-thin cover that’s about 1/16-inch thick. It’s almost the equivalent of drawing a picture of a tabletop and gluing it on top of some plywood.


That type of approach may work for discount mass productions, or perhaps a child’s arts and crafts project, but that’s not the way to make quality furniture that lasts a lifetime. 


For thousands of years, since the first woodworkers roamed the earth, joinery has been the method used to connect pieces of wood together. Joinery is an artform that helps furniture maintain its beauty and durability while withstanding damp and dry seasons. The two main types of joinery we use at Bison Woodworking are mortise and tenon joinery and biscuit joinery.


Mortise and Tenon Joinery


This type of joinery uses one piece of wood with a cavity, or mortise, cut into it. The other piece of wood has a tenon, typically a tongue, peg or dovetail, protruding from the end of it. The tenon is precisely cut to fit the mortise so the two pieces can be tightly glued together. In addition to woodworking, mortise and tenon joinery is the traditional method used by stone masons and blacksmiths to join materials together. 


If we’re making a table with a thick, heavy top, we’ll use a mortise and tenon joint to make the piece as strong as possible. If we’re making a table with breadboard ends to keep the table stable and flat, we’ll use mortise and tenon joints to allow the boards in the middle of the table to expand and contract without cracking.


Biscuit Joinery


Biscuit joinery was invented in Switzerland in the 1950s. It’s not quite as strong as mortise and tenon joinery, but it’s still a very effective way to connect two pieces of wood for lighter pieces of furniture. The biscuit itself is a thin, oval-shaped piece of dried wood, usually 1 ¼ - 2 ¼ inches long.


A circular saw is used to cut a mouth, or a crescent-shaped slot, into two pieces of wood where they’ll connect. The biscuit is covered in wet glue and inserted into the two pieces of wood, which are clamped together. The glue causes the biscuit to expand, forming an extremely tight joint that holds the wood together in all directions. No Allen wrenches required.


Don’t settle for cheap, poorly made mass productions. Contact us for beautiful, sturdy furniture made the old-fashioned way from the finest American hardwoods and steel.

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About Us

Bison Woodworking is what happens when a couple of individuals with a passion for woodworking come together to make something great. Starting in a garage in 2006, Bison Woodworking was a one man show, turning out beautiful and unique kitchen islands and butcher blocks. Each one, built by hand, one at a time by Craig himself.