clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Generation NEXT | How to Cut Wood Joints

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva teaches apprentice Austin how to make a variety of different wood joints by building simple utility boxes.

Steps for Cutting Wood Joints

  • Cut the lumber to the desired length using a table saw or a miter saw.
  • Cut the ¼” plywood to size for three boxes based on the previous cuts made. The plywood will serve as a bottom for all the boxes.

RABBET-BUTT JOINT

  • Set the dado blade in the table saw to just slightly above the thickness of the board.
  • Hold the board on its long side and eyeball the desired thickness of the rabbet cut. Slide the rip fence against the board and lock it down when the gap between the rip fence and the blade are at the desired thickness.
  • With the board still standing upright, run it through the table saw.
  • Repeat this process on the other side of the board, and then again on the board that will be parallel to this one on the completed box.
  • Switch the dado blade to a table saw blade and make a cut on all four boards the thickness of the bottom of the box to receive the bottom of the box.
  • Cover all the joints with wood glue and assemble the first three sides.
  • Slide the bottom into the dados, then add the fourth side.
  • Screw all the sides together with the wood screws.

RABBET-DADO JOINT

  • Switch the table saw blade back to a dado blade.
  • Set the blade height to roughly a ¼”. You can use the ¼” plywood as a guide.
  • Stand the board tall and then adjust the rip fence so that the blade falls perfectly center with the board.
  • Set the board flat and run the dado cut. Repeat this process on the other side of the board, and then again on the board that will be parallel to this one on the completed box.
  • To make the rabbet cuts, take a sacrificial piece of wood the same dimensions as the box lumber and hold it against the rip fence. Lay the board flat against the sacrificial piece and run it through the blade.
  • Repeat this process on the other side of the board, and then again on the board that will be parallel to this one on the completed box.
  • Switch the dado blade to a table saw blade and make a cut on all four boards that’s about ¼” thick to receive the bottom of the box.
  • Cover all the joints with wood glue, assemble the box with the bottom, and clamp it together until the glue dries.

BOX JOINT

  • Switch the table saw blade back to a dado blade.
  • Attach a sacrificial piece of wood to the cross-cutting fence, then hold a second sacrificial piece of wood against that piece.
  • Set the height of the blade to the thickness of the boards being cut.
  • Run the sacrificial piece of wood through the blade.
  • Cut a filler piece of wood to perfectly fit in the hole made by the previous cut and glue it perpendicular in the hole. Be certain that the board still lays perfectly straight on the table saw.
  • Slide the fence up against the blade and adjust it on the table saw so that there is a gap between the blade and the filler piece that’s the exact same width as the filler piece.
  • Clamp the guide into position on the fence.
  • Stand the board up against the jig and run it through the table saw.
  • Next, line up the newly cut hole over the filler piece and run the board through the saw again.
  • Pick up the board and place the most recently cut hole on top of the filler piece and run the board through the saw. Repeat this process all the way across the board.
  • To move on to the next board, hold the previously cut board over the filler piece and line up the next board against it. Run that board through the table saw, and repeat the process on all four sides.
  • Flip each board over and repeat the process on the other side of all four boards.
  • Switch the dado blade back to a table saw blade and make cuts on the bottom of all four sides about ¼” thick to receive the bottom piece.
  • Cover all the joints with wood glue and assemble the box and the bottom.

Resources:

Utility boxes can be built out of basically any type of wood and with a variety of fasteners, both of which are available at home centers and lumberyards.

The wood glue Tom used to assemble each box was manufactured by Gorilla Glue.

Tools: