Tenon Cutters


These tenon cutters cut a six-degree tapered tenon to match the taper of my reamers.

My legs and arm stumps are turned green and oversized. I dry them in a kiln. Then there are a couple of methods to cut a tenon. The tenons can be cut on the lathe and this is probably the most accurate method, assuming you have good turning skills. The tenon is automatically aligned with the centerline of the turning, and it is easy to make a tenon without a shoulder.

Tenon cutters automatically make a tenon of the correct taper, however they leave a shoulder which must be removed to ensure a good joint. This can be done with a chisel or on the lathe. I usually use the lathe.

A little care is required to ensure the tenon is straight on the leg. The less wood the tenon cutter has to remove, the less chance it has to get off course. The Arm Stump Tenon Cutter is 1/2″ at the small end and the Leg Tenon Cutter is 11/16″ diameter at the small end.

1/2″ Arm Stump Tenon Cutter — $70 each

11/16″ Leg Tenon Cutters — $70 each

Custom tenon cutters are available in eight and eleven degree tapers, as well as custom sizes. They are $110 each. Contact me to order.


Getting round, perfectly-sized tenons on the ends of a spindle can be time consuming. Spindle Tenon Cutters cut a cylindrical tenon of any length, then cut a shallow taper which can later be removed with a spokeshave or drawknife. Diameters are adjustable to roughly .015″ over the stated size. The less wood the tool has to take off, the cleaner the cut will be.

Spindle Tenon Cutters are available in 1/2″ diameter for the bottom of the spindle.

1/2″ Spindle Tenon Cutter — $70 each

Custom sizes are available at $110 each.  Contact me to order.


I have switched to using dowel plates to cut the upper tenon on the spindles.  I find that the cut is often cleaner than a tenon cutter’s cut, the dowel plates never need re-adjusting, and almost never need sharpening.  They are also self limiting: if the tenon is too big, you simply can’t drive it through the hole. Made of 1/4″ thick O1 tool steel, soft enough that the holes can be enlarged with a file to make a larger diameter tenon. These plates are handmade and the stated diameters may vary a few thousandths of an inch. See video on sidebar for more info.

Dowel Plates are available in three sizes:
3/10″ (.300″) matches the diameter of a Kreg Jig Micro Bit (my preference for boring holes in bows)
5/16″ (.312″)  matches a 5/16 bradpoint, and possibly a 5/16 auger bit (auger bits may vary up to .020″ oversized).
3/8″ (.375″) matches a 3/8″ bradpoint, and possibly a 3/8″ auger bit (auger bits may vary up to .020″ oversized).

3/10″  Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)

5/16″  Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)

3/8″  Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)


This Set of Five Tools includes a leg tenon cutter, a arm-stump tenon cutter, and a 1/2″ spindle tenon cutter, plus one six-degree reamer and one 5/16″ dowel plate. Dowel plates in other sizes are available separately.

Set of Five Tools — $275

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Read instructions for using tenon cutters.

Partial instructions for making your own tenon cutters can be found in Roy Underhill’s book, The Woodwright’s Companion, pages 132-33. Drew Langsner’s book, The Chairmaker’s Workshop also has instructions (page 32).

Stretcher Tenons:
In my shop, I prefer using a sizing tool for turning stretcher tenons, since the tenon shoulders are easy to remove on the lathe and the tenons are always aligned with the stretcher’s axis. My second favorite method is a dowel plate, which is cheap and low-tech.  Unfortunately, at this time I don’t sell dowel plates in this size (5/8″ for most chairs). 

Read about how to use sizing tools.

Watch Curtis Buchanan use a sizing tool: