How to Cut Tenons on the Bandsaw
I’ve cut tenons in all manner of ways. I learned by doing it with a handsaw. Time-consuming, but it worked. Then I tried a tenoning jig, but it was fussy to set up and was too unwieldy for longer workpieces. Finally, I settled on using a dado set, a quick and easy method that allowed me to bang out a bunch of tenons in no time, no matter what the length of the workpiece.
I thought it was the best way. But recently I tried the job with a bandsaw, and I think I’m a convert.
You see, I’ve been building a trestle table, doing the work here in the FWW shop during my lunch hour. It’s not a complicated piece by any means, but with only an hour to spare for woodwork, I needed to be as efficient as possible.
The FWW shop has a SawStop tablesaw. It’s a great saw, but installing the dado set on it requires changing out the blade-stopping cartridge and recalibrating the system a bit. Not a big deal if you do the job regularly, but it was a time-waster for the short period I have to work. I soon realized that my preferred method of cutting tenons wasn’t going to cut it.
I’d seen people do the job on the bandsaw, and it looked simple, so I decided to give it a whirl. Turns out, the job was easy, quick and precise, and I’m not sure I’ll ever use a dado set again to cut tenons. I used our shop’s behemoth bandsaw for the job, but the technique will work with any bandsaw, even a benchtop one if your workpieces are small enough. Try it. I think you’ll like it.
Here’s the process.
First cut the shoulders using the tablesaw.
1. I dialed in the blade height with the help of a test piece. Once that was set, use the fence and a miter gauge to cut the shoulders along the cheeks on all the pieces.
2. Then, with the fence in the same position, adjust the blade height to cut the top and bottom shoulders.
Now it’s off to the bandsaw.
You’ll need one with a good fence so you don’t cut tapered tenons by accident, and it’s a good idea to use a test piece to set up the fence. I do the cheek cuts first, but I don’t think it matters.
3. Scribe a line from the bottom of the each shoulder to the end of the workpiece and set the fence so that you’re cutting a hair outside the line. Cut the first cheek, flip the workpiece and cut the opposite face.
4. When all the cheek cuts are finished, follow the same process to trim the tenons to width.
5. All it takes is some light cleanup work with a shoulder plane and chisels to get a perfect-fitting tenon.