LEGS AND ARM STUMPS
These tenon cutters cut a six-degree tapered tenon to match the taper of my reamers. Made in my shop by Seth Elliott.
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.
WHY USE A TENON CUTTER?
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.
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, the sizes most commonly used for posts/arm stumps and legs (boring a smaller mortise hole is fine – you’ll just ream a little more).
1/2″ Maple Arm Stump Tenon Cutter — $120 each
1/2″ Walnut Arm Stump Tenon Cutter — $140 each
11/16″ Maple Leg Tenon Cutters — $120 each
Custom tenon cutters are available in eight and eleven degree tapers, as well as custom sizes. Maple cutters are $175 each. Contact me for other wood options and to order.
BOTTOM OF SPINDLES
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. Made in my shop by Seth Elliott.
Spindle Tenon Cutters are available in 1/2″ diameter for the bottom of the spindle.
1/2″ Maple Spindle Tenon Cutter — $120 each
1/2″ Persimmon Spindle Tenon Cutter — $140 each
1/2″ Walnut Spindle Tenon Cutter — $140 each
Custom tenon cutters are available in custom sizes. From maple, they are $175 each. Contact me for other wood options and to order.
TOP OF SPINDLES
I use dowel plates to cut the upper tenon on the spindles, plus any 3/8″ tenons on the ends of posts and crests. The cut is often cleaner than a tenon cutter’s cut, the dowel plates never need re-adjusting, and almost never need sharpening. 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. If you are using auger bits, measure the tip of the bit across the two spur cutters with a pair of dial calipers. If your bit falls in between my dowel plate sizes, buy the next smaller dowel plate and file it bigger (it won’t take much). 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 seven 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).
.320″ & .325″ are slightly bigger than 5/16 for auger bits (check your bit’s diameter with dial calipers).
3/8″ (.375″) matches a 3/8″ bradpoint, and possibly a 3/8″ auger bit (auger bits may vary up to .020″ oversized).
.380″ & .385″ are slightly bigger than 3/8″ for auger bits (check your bit’s diameter with dial calipers).
3/10″ Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)
5/16″ Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)
.320″ Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)
.325″ Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)
3/8″ Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)
.380″ Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)
.385″ Dowel Plate – $25 (free shipping to USA)
SET OF REAMER AND TENON CUTTERS
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 with Maple Tenon Cutters — $475
Set of Five Tools with Walnut Tenon Cutters — $535
Tools & Supplies
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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).
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).
Watch Curtis Buchanan use a sizing tool:
Read about how to use sizing tools on my blog.