Wood Joinery Methods That Use No Fasteners

Learn how to join wood with no screws, nails or other metal fasteners

One of the many ways that fine woodworking differs from carpentry is that in many instances, fine woodworking uses no mechanical fasteners to secure one board to another. Sure, there are times that a furniture or cabinetry project may call for some finish nails or wood screws, but there are many methods for connecting wood that does not require such fasteners. Take away a carpenter's nails or screws, and he'll go home for the day.

The following is a list of various joinery methods that, when done properly, will securely fasten two boards together with no metal fasteners whatsoever. Just a little know-how, some tools and probably a bit of glue to secure the joint.

  • 01 of 07

    Mortise and Tenon Joints

    Drawing of a Mortise and Tenon Joint
    (c) Chris Baylor

    Examples of mortise and tenon joints can be found in woodworking projects that are centuries old. The premise of a mortise and tenon joint is simple: a hole in one board, known as a mortise, is cut to accommodate a pin on another board, called a tenon. When the tenon is inserted into the mortise and secured properly, the two boards can become nearly as strong as a single board. Here are some tips for creating mortise and tenon joints that are as attractive as they are strong.

  • 02 of 07

    Through Dovetail Joints

    Drawing of a Through Dovetail Joint
    (c) Chris Baylor

    There may not be any more attractive or classic wood joint than the through dovetail. When properly cut and assembled, the through dovetail is a strong and beautiful method for joining the ends of two boards, particularly at a right angle. This method is commonly used for drawer construction or for building chests where the corners become part of the character of the piece. In this article, learn how to become a master of this classic woodworking joint.

  • 03 of 07

    Half-Blind Dovetail Joints

    Drawing of Half-Blind Dovetails
    (c) Chris Baylor

    Similar to a through dovetail joint, the half-blind dovetail is where only one-half of the joint shows the dovetails. When looking at the joint from the opposite side, the board appears to simply end with no joint whatsoever, hence the half-blind name. This joint is a little trickier to create but has very specific uses, such as when connecting the sides of a drawer to the front, where the dovetails would not want to be seen. In this article, learn how to master the half-blind dovetail joint for use in your woodworking projects.

  • 04 of 07

    Sliding Dovetail Joints

    Drawing of Sliding Dovetail Joint
    (c)Chris Baylor

    A sliding dovetail joint is simpler than either a through or half-blind dovetail joint, in that it is just one pin and one tail to combine the two boards. This joint has ample strength in one direction, but very limited strength in another, as the joint can be easily separated if no glue or other methods are used to secure the joint. With that knowledge, there are some very specific instances where a sliding dovetail is a perfect choice. In this article, learn how to perfect this simple and unique woodworking joint.

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  • 05 of 07

    Box Joints

    Drawing of Box Joint
    (c) Chris Baylor

    If you're looking for a simpler alternative to the through dovetail joint, one that can be created very simply and easily in a repeatable fashion, consider the box joint. This joint is a type of finger joint that has multiple uses and can be created very quickly using a box joint jig with your table saw. Here are the steps you need to know to create your own box joints.

  • 06 of 07

    Doweling to Join Wood

    Dowels to Join Wood
    (c) Chris Baylor

    Doweling is another old-school joinery method, whereby two or more rounded sticks of wood, known as dowels, are inserted into corresponding holes in two boards to hold them together. Glue keeps the dowels and boards from separating, while the dowels provide lateral strength. It takes little more than a drill and a set of bits to install dowels, but they can be a little tricky to align. Here are some tips for making doweling work for your project needs.

  • 07 of 07

    Biscuit Joints

    biscuit cutter
    ©Ryan C Kunkle

    Biscuit joints aren't nearly as structurally strong as many of the joinery types in this list, but they are perfect for some applications. For instance, biscuits are great for joining face frames to cabinet carcasses. A biscuit cutter is used to cut slots into the corresponding boards, and then a football-shaped biscuit is glued into each of the slots. Once the biscuit expands with the moisture from the glue and then dries, the joint is secure. Here are some tips for using biscuits in your projects.