Super-Strong 3-Way Miter
Combination of hand and power tools makes it surprisingly straightforward
Synopsis: This miter joint has been in use since the Ming dynasty, and it may seem daunting at first. But Andrew Hunter lays out all the steps to create the three-way miter, starting with accurate layout, moving on to some slick hand-tool and machine tips will get rid of the unwanted material and leave you with perfect tenons and miters, and moving on to shaping.
At first glance, this double-tenoned lapping miter joint might seem as complicated as its name. I am sure some of the Chinese craftsmen using the joint more than 500 years ago puzzled over it, too. But once you have taken the time to create an accurate layout, this intricate joint can be made quickly and precisely. In China it is known as the rice dumpling joint, after the three-way mitered fold of a dumpling, and has been in use since the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Since its early history, Chinese furniture has been constructed predominantly with miter joints. In addition to its strength, mitered joinery lets shaped profiles meet seamlessly. Curves can flow into curves without the need for a more difficult cope.
This oak cabinet has 16 separate corners all with this mitered joint. For this article, I’m demonstrating one joint made from start to finish. However, it’s worth mentioning that because the three parts of each joint are so different, in an actual project I lay out all the like pieces, move on to the next set of like pieces, and then lay out the last set. I do the same with the construction. I cut all the stiles first, then I cut all the mortiseonly rails, and then the rails with one tenon and one mortise.
Whether the tenons are through- or concealed is a matter of personal preference. I use through-tenons. Also, because…