Starting Out: Cutting a Bridle Joint
Find out how to make this a simple version of a mortise and tenon, in this second of four articles on starting out as a woodworker
Synopsis: In this second of four articles on starting out as a woodworker, Roger Holmes explains how to make bridle joints, or a simple mortise and tenon, for a simple table. This joint requires accurate, organized marking out, and he explains how to do that and how to cut the cheeks and shoulders. Most joints need a little trimming to fit snugly, which he talks about, before he addresses chamfering.
The mortise-and-tenon is one of the most basic and versatile woodworking joints. It can be as plain as the rung-to-leg joints in any stick chair, or as complicated as some of the three-dimensional, jigsawpuzzle joints used in Japanese house carpentry. A mortise-and-tenon can be used almost any time you need to join the end of one piece to the edge of another. They’re such effective joints that it’s hard to find a piece of furniture without at least one, even if only a dowel in a hole.
The bridle joint (shown above) is one of the simplest garden-variety mortiseand-tenons. Its open-ended mortise doesn’t have the mechanical (unglued) strength of an enclosed mortise, but modern glues and the joint’s ample gluing surface make up the difference. And a bridle joint can be made more quickly and easily. Both tenon and mortise can be cut almost entirely with a saw, eliminating the excavation that would be required to clear out an enclosed mortise.
When I was figuring out the base for the round pine dining table shown here, bridle joints seemed ideal. A pedestal eliminates obstruction under the table, and the C-shaped, bridle-jointed frames are sturdy enough to support the tabletop, Thanksgiving turkey and a dozen or so elbows. And the six bridle joints are all the joinery needed for the entire base.
I cut the bridle joints…