If you use a tenon cutter on the sticks (or spindles) of a chair, it can be a challenge to cut the tenon so it is perfectly centered on the stick and inline with the axis of the stick. This can be a problem no matter how you drive the tenon cutter – with a brace or with a drill.
This short video shows how I teach students to cut tenons. If you take these steps, your tenons will start to improve immediately. Practice will get you the rest of the way.
Note that there is a way to get perfect tenons every time with a tenon cutter. It involves a lathe and a jig. It’s ideal for making 200 tenons at a time. I’ll show that process some other day.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Shameless plug: This tip is straight from the pages of “The Stick Chair Book.” There are lots of little tricks like this in the book.
18 thoughts on “Tips on Tenon Cutters”
Thanks for all the video tips!
It’s great that you are doing these short videos. I’m guessing here, but from what I see, I think you are using the low rpm setting on your drill? That and the side handle I believe provides much more control when doing the cut and might be worth mentioning. I think you were using the same setting (low rpm/high torque) on the how to use the reamer video?
It doesn’t take much torque to cut most tenons. The drill is set for a medium speed and the clutch is bypassed.
Great tip and video! I would also be interested in seeing a video on your lathe technique too.
Hi All, I am currently reading through the Stick Chair Book (another fantastic book Christopher!). Wondering if anyone has any recommendation for these types of tenon cutters. All help appreciated!
The only powered tenon cutters worth having — that I have seen — are by Veritas.
Thanks so much Johncashman73!!!
There is a long line for the veritas tenon cutters. They will be worth the wait. Right now it says expected June 26 but when I bought them it said expected February 26th. The 5/8 one I received already then still waiting on 1″ and 1 1/4″. What I did was get in line for the veritas ones then ordered some cmt plug cutters (as recommended in a previous LAP blog post and video) in sizes I need. Then I made the Irishy arm chairs tenons with a block plane while waiting for those. Lots of ways to do it. Hope that helps and good luck on your chair.
My local library lets me make one free print a month. For the tapered tenon cutter, I designed one that works pretty alright. It fits the veritas cutter blade and the large reamer.
If anyone wants it, here is the link.
It flexes a bit but works okay in a vise. Probably not as robust as the metal one but now that I have it, there’s no point in buying one.
I also tried printing a reamer but it did not work well at all.
These are not tapered tenons, but the reamer video makes a tapered mortise. I presume these straight tenons are for straight mortises; am I missing an application where a straight mortise is preferable to a tapered one? Am I correct in supposing a person would use the same technique for tapered tenons?
Wait. I get it…these are for the sticks, not for the legs. My mistake..
You can use straight tenons with a shoulder for the legs, too.
That last photo is also called an FJ Tenon….
What is the vice set at an angle on the corner of your bench.
Benchcrafted HI Vise.
Great video, thanks for enabling the closed captions. It makes a huge difference for deaf people like me.
I have seen a Gentleman use what he called a tenon pointer, it looked the same as the tenon cutter but only left the end of the spindle with a centered point. The tenon cutter was then centered on the spindle. These were old tools, do new cutters have both operations in one action?
The modern tenon cutters don’t need a pointer. The tool’s curved cutter shaves the outside of the stick so the tip can enter the cutter. The curved cutter has limits, but it’s surprising what it can accommodate.
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