Mortise & Tenon

By Shaper | Created October 24th, 2017 | Published October 24th, 2017

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Origin makes mortise and tenon joinery very approachable. Use this pack to get started, then branch out and create your own designs!

20 min





Files included (10)
1 kB
894 B

Solid Wood - This project is sized for either 2" x 2" and 2" x 4" stock for the tenon side of the joint ShaperTape Double sided tape Wood Glue Spoilboard
Shaper Origin ¼” Up-Cut Bit Vertical Workstation
photo of step 1

Setup your Vertical Workstation

This project requires the Vertical Workstation.

Attach your Vertical Workstation to a work table to create a stable work area.

Clamp your stock into the workstation ensuring the left side is pressed firmly against the alignment pins. It is best to leave the end of the stock roughly 1/32” below the top surface of the workstation (we calibrate the depth to the top of stock in the next step).

photo of step 2

Scan your workspace and install ¼” Up-Cut Bit

Scan your workspace

Install a ¼” Up-Cut Bit. Make sure the bit has an appropriate length of cut; the bit included with Origin has a ¾” length of cut, which means that the tenon can be no more than ¾” long. Perform Z touch off, making sure the bit is positioned over the end of your stock (this will ensure an accurate length on your tenon).

photo of step 3

Create a grid

In Cut Mode, adjust your bit settings:

Depth: ¾” (.75in)
Offset: 0
Bit size: ¼” (.25in)

Switch back to Design Mode and tap the grid button in the lower lefthand corner. Select a 1/4” grid from the menu, follow the on screen instructions to define the edge of your stock, and apply the grid. To learn more about grids, click here.

photo of step 4

Place your design

In Design Mode, tap the “+” button in the top left and select the tenon design that best suits your project.

When you go to place the design, you will see that there is a blue guide line in the file. This line represents the actual edge of your stock. The the bottom left hand corner of this line should be snapped to the bottom left hand corner of your stock. When the alignment is correct, press the green button to place the file.

photo of step 5

Rough out the tenon

Using the settings below, move through the steps to fully cut out the tenon. Because you can adapt this project, it is up to you to decide the final length of your tenon (not exceeding ¼” depth per pass as you cut!). For a more decorative joint, you can cut your joint to pass all the way through the mortise part, revealing the shape on the opposite side.

Following the below sequence for your rough cuts.

Roughing pass #1:

Bit: ¼” (0.25in)
Cut Type: Pocket
Offset: 1/32” (0.03in)
Depth Steps: No more than ¼” (0.25in) per pass, stopping at final depth.

Final depth can’t be more than your bit’s length of cut.

Roughing pass #2:

Bit: ¼” (0.25in)
Cut Type: Outside
Offset: 1/32” (0.03in)
Depth Steps: Use the same steps from roughing 1.
Spindle Speed (off screen): 6

Move origin over the pocket area, switch on your spindle (off screen) and begin to cut away all of the area around the tenon shapes. Once the pocket is at final depth, adjust your settings to Roughing 2 and cut the outside shapes of the tenon (don’t forget the offset!).

photo of step 6

Finish the tenon

To clean up the edges, hover over the tenon and adjust your settings for the finishing pass:

Bit: ¼” (.25in)
Cut Type: Outside
Offset: 0
Depth Steps: Final Project Depth
Spindle Speed (off screen): 6

At final depth, carefully cut around the tenon shapes one last time to leave a smooth surface.

Once done, you can remove your part from the Workstation.

photo of step 7

Setup your work surface to cut the matching mortise

Place a spoilboard down on your work surface.

Using double sided tape (clamping is also an option, use your best judgement here) fasten your stock down to the spoil board.

Apply ShaperTape, making sure there is enough tape to support the cut. Since this joint can be use in so many different situations, you will need to use your best judgement here and get creative.

For tips on applying ShaperTape, see here

photo of step 8

Place mortise design

Place a grid down on your stock to ensure that your tenon part ends up square to your mortise part. This is recommended, but not required. Again, use your best judgement to decide what suits your project.

In Design mode, select and place the same design you used for your tenon. Remember that the blue line in the design represents the actual edge of your tenon part.

photo of step 9

Pocket out the mortise

Adjust the design to cut the negative shape. To do so, move Origin over the tenon shapes(s) to select the design (the shape will highlight). In the cut settings menu, adjust the Cut Type from “Outside” to “Pocket”. Next, adjust your cut settings to match the list below. Note that the final depth on your mortise should be slightly more (+ .1in) than the length of your tenon. This will ensure you can fully insert the tenon into the mortise.

Roughing 1 (may be multiple passes, depending on your material):

Bit: ¼” (.25in)
Offset: 0in
Cut Type: Pocket
Depth: No more than ¼” per pass, stopping at final depth. Final depth can’t be more than your bit’s length of cut.
Spindle Speed (off screen): 6

After you have completed the rough pocket, you will need to hover over the shape(s) again and change their Cut Type to “Inside”. With an offset, you can make one pass at the final project depth.

Roughing 2:

Bit: ¼” (.25in)
Offset: 1/32” (.375in)
Cut Type: Inside
Depth: Final Project Depth
Spindle Speed (off screen): 6

photo of step 10

Finishing the mortise and fitting your tenon

Once you have completed all the roughing steps, it is time to make some small finishing passes to fit the tenon to the mortise.

Use the settings below and cut around the mortise shape(s) to get the fit close.

Finishing 1:

Bit: ¼” (.25in)
Offset: 0in
Cut Type: Inside
Depth: Final Project Depth
Spindle Speed (off screen): 6

The fit is likely to be too snug. Using your best judgement, set the Offset to a very small negative amount (-0.005in recommended), and cut around the shape.

Finishing 2:

Bit: ¼” (.25in)
Offset: -0.005in (or until desired fit is achieved).
Cut Type: Inside
Depth: Final Project Depth
Spindle Speed (off screen): 6

Check fit by inserting the tenon into the mortise. If it still feels too tight, you can adjust the Offset to -0.0075in and cut around the shape(s) one last time. Test the fit one last time before removing your pieces from the workstation.

photo of step 11

Glue and assemble

The specifics of this step are going to depend a lot on the specifics of your project.

If you plan to glue your project up, it is always best to make an assembly plan first. Figure out the order your parts should be assembled in, and make sure you have the right clamps/tools on hand, and then get started.

Using a brush, or your finger, apply glue liberally to both sides of the joint. Insert tenon into the mortise, and hold the two parts together with a clamp. Don’t remove this clamp until the glue is set (typically 1hr, but read the directions).

If your project is complex to assemble, you may consider using a long open time glue like Titebond II Extend. This way you can get everything right before the glue starts to set up.

photo of step 12

Nice work!

Now that you’ve got the hang of mortise and tenon joinery with Origin, you can get creative and make your own designs.


This project is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommerical - Share - Alike license