How to Make a Table: Episode 2

How to Make a Table 2

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Paul introduces the mortice guide that helps to guarantee that the mortice hole is parallel to the outside face. This is used to accurately cut the mortises, working progressively using Paul’s preferred technique to cut to depth. The tenons are cut to width and fitted with the saw and chisel. Paul checks for anything that holds off the joint; then mitres the tenon.


  1. dcoons on 17 August 2016 at 5:29 pm

    I’ve always been curious–what is the purpose of a haunch?

    • Matt McGrane on 17 August 2016 at 9:19 pm

      More stability from leg twisting or racking. When tables are dragged on a floor, especially on carpet, the extra support makes a big difference.

    • Michael Ostrander on 5 January 2018 at 4:28 am

      Haunches tenons are typically used to fill the groove in the end of a rail on frame and panel doors. This is the result of ploughing a through groove as opposed to a stopped groove.
      I’ve never heard of anyone manufacturing the groove in order to add a haunch. I’ve always considered the haunch a solution, not an application.
      The amount of strength it adds to the joint is negligible compared to the extra work involved in creating it
      Great for skill building maybe but not particularly practical.

      • William Hall on 31 March 2018 at 12:00 am

        As Matt already mentioned, the haunch helps prevent racking (twisting) of the top edge of the rail. In addition, if the shoulder joint was to open over time, due to shrinkage in the thickness of the leg, then the haunch also stops there being a completely open gap in the joint though which light might show. On a small table like this, that’s not much of an issue, but on larger tables and certainly on doors (both cabinet and room/house doors) it is an important issue. You’re right, that in paneled doors, that width of groove, mortice and haunch are usually the same, and aligned, but the haunch does do more than just fill the groove.

  2. Matt McGrane on 17 August 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Two comments on the mortise guides that Paul uses. First, I notice on some of Paul’s chops the mortise guide is away from the upper portion of the guide, which would cause a slight undercut of the mortise in that area. Apparently this is not much of an issue if the bulk of the chops are right along the wall.

    Second, I used this method and have had problems with the guide not sitting properly on the leg. I think this was due to my vise jaws not closing exactly right. It pays to check using a square that the guide is 90° to the mortise being chopped!!

    • Dan Roper on 17 August 2016 at 11:49 pm

      Great observations. I have been thinking about the guide and the problem with racking on my vise if I really were to crank it down as Paul did. My thought, for what it is worth, when I build my guide I think I will make the piece on the side as long as the jaws on my vise. This way I will get rid of the racking problem. What think you?


      • Farred on 18 August 2016 at 5:15 am

        I’ve tried several tweaks of the guide, but never got it to work any better than freehand. Considering how bad my freehand is, that’s saying a lot. I always end up shimming the tenons.

      • hphimmelbauer on 18 August 2016 at 9:24 am

        I made this guide and cannot live without it anymore. As I have only one version at the moment, my mortises look the same (6mm space from edge of woodpiece), the spaces look the same, but who cares. The workpieces look good that way and do their job.
        Give it a try, but a firm, close (really firm and really close) hold is necessary. And may be an issue, but my guide has cheeks long enough for the vise.

        • Matt Hess on 19 August 2016 at 8:25 pm

          If you have problems with your vice skewing the mortise guide, you can simply use a couple clamps to secure the guide to the piece. Then place the piece to be chopped directly on your bench top. Because most of the force is downward, the wood will move around very little while you chop. But you can always clamp/hold fast your work piece to the bench top if it moves to much. I’ve chopped dozens of mortises this way, and almost prefer it, as you have to really torque the vice to hold a piece in the jaws to keep it from slipping downward as you chop.

          • Farred on 21 August 2016 at 4:24 am

            Thanks. Yes, the vise seems to skew it no matter what I do. I’ll try using clamps.

          • Wayne on 21 August 2016 at 7:23 pm

            For any kind of racking I really like this device form Lee Valley. Cheap and effective,41659

          • Michael Ostrander on 5 January 2018 at 4:36 am

            I’ve made three of these jigs now, 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″. I use them a lot and really like them. They make mortifying sooo much less stressful.
            I use a large (10″) wooden screw clamp and a hold fast to keep everything together and work on top of my bench as well. It feels much more solid than the vise and I like the extra height as well.

      • jlweigle on 24 August 2016 at 3:35 pm

        I’ve made multiples of the mortise guides in several different thicknesses, but with the same thickness of backing board. Thus, to avoid problems with racking, I put one guide at the mortise location and the other further down the piece but within the vise jaws. The upper part of the guide holds both in place until the vise is closed.

        I use a Moxon-style vice but I think it would work just as well on a bench vise if you offset the mortise to one side and the holder toward the other. With my vise I can usually securely cut two mortises at the same time (thus why I have multiples of the same size) plus solve the racking problem. Depending on the size of the piece setting up two like this may or may not work in a bench vise.

      • greg ford on 25 August 2019 at 2:42 pm

        I am going to make a set of those guides and I planned on making them longer for the same reason.

  3. knightlylad on 17 August 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Thank you for the lesson.

  4. STEVE MASSIE on 18 August 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Another great video and I defiantly going to make a couple mortice guides ( 1 ) 1/4″ and ( 1 ) 3/8″, I think taht will cover and motice’s I do, or do you think I need ( 1 ) for 1/2″ as well?

    Learning some great techniques here.


    • Mooncabbage on 23 August 2016 at 2:35 pm

      You don’t have to get too fancy with it, I make them up as and when I need them. They don’t last forever and it’s easier to make them to task, than to store them and then have to try to find them.

    • Derek Long on 23 August 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Yeah, like Reece said it is just as easy to make these to task. I find they tend to go out of square as they lay around the shop over time. Maybe it’s not such a problem if you make it out of plywood, though. Probably just as much energy to make a new one as to check and resquare an old one.

  5. smahurin on 19 August 2016 at 1:27 am

    I got my mortises cut today and one tenon. I only have an 8″ gents saw. I think I will probably be getting a tenon saw soon. My first joint is not bad for my first time! Thank-you Paul for sharing your knowledge!


    • smahurin on 21 August 2016 at 11:37 pm

      My tenon saw came yesterday so I redid the first apron and my joints are tighter. I feel better than the first attempt since they were too loose.

  6. Farred on 19 August 2016 at 2:30 am

    What type of wood is Paul using?

    • smahurin on 19 August 2016 at 2:49 am

      I think oak aprons and top and ash for the legs.

      • Farred on 19 August 2016 at 2:58 am

        The apron and top look oak, but the legs look too light for ash; maybe pine.

        • smahurin on 19 August 2016 at 3:00 am

          I thought I heard him say ash, but the grain does remind me of pine.

          • ballinger on 19 August 2016 at 2:08 pm

            He mentioned ash alright.

          • smahurin on 19 August 2016 at 11:19 pm

            Might be ash for the entire project then.

  7. chefcrash on 20 August 2016 at 9:01 am

    Been there done that. Find myself fast forwarding

  8. jeffdustin on 15 August 2017 at 2:46 am

    This video has the best explanation of chiseling a mortise I have ever seen. Very clear and understandable.

  9. southpaw on 15 November 2017 at 6:44 pm

    What about the other side of the mortise (the one without the guide)? Does that ever get cleaned up, or is it left somewhat ragged because it’s not the show side?

    • Michael Ostrander on 5 January 2018 at 4:43 am

      If the mortise is centered then you can flip the guide and pare both sides with the jig. That said, you’ll never get the mortise centered exactly which means you’re going to have a slightly larger mortise than you anticipated. Just keep that in mind when cutting the tenon. Start “fat” and work it down to fit.
      If the mortise isn’t centered, like on the legs here, you’ll just have to do it the old fashioned way…hand and eye.

  10. dpawson on 13 April 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Bit more careful (tenon) = use the hand router, as per your other M/T video?

  11. Dennis O'Shea on 16 April 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Great video I just love the Saw work especially the 45 degree on the tenon thanks again

  12. Christopher Johnston on 17 April 2018 at 1:23 am

    Very handy concept that mortice jig.I used to have some trouble keeping my chisels perpendicular before using this jig.Thanks for the idea Paul.

  13. Christopher Johnston on 9 June 2018 at 4:56 am

    I am so enjoyinh my free apprenticeship Paul ,thank you.You are a marvelous teacher.

  14. Bobby Zander on 5 November 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Mortise jigs were a tremendous with some chairs I recently made!
    However, I need help with my table top. Can I use a hang plane to smooth it after it is glued together if it has knots in it? Last time I tried that there were a lot of tears. Any suggestions?

    • Philip Adams on 6 November 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Hi Bobby, quite a few possible answers there depending on the circumstances. Sometime you can plane it all the way smooth in the same direction, sometimes you have to flip direction regularly around the knots. Other times you can plane it roughly to level by going at 45 degrees to the gran, then swap to the scraper. A cabinet scraper works very well on hard grain. Hope that helps.

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