If you have any experience in woodwork you will know how important joints are when constructing your project. Although there are many different ways to join two pieces of wood; DECO gives you a crash course on the 8 basic joints in carpentry:


The butt joint is probably the simplest and most common joint. The two pieces of wood joined together is fastened with nails or screws at a perfect 90-degree angle. These might not be the best looking joints, but can carry heavy loads and are therefor used a lot when constructing the frame of a house.


The mitered butt joint is basically your standard butt joint, with the edges mitered to a 45-degree angle. The two pieces of wood is fastened with nails or screws and allows for a very sleek looking finish. This joint is most often used for structuring roofs and frames.


The dovetail joint is one of the strongest joints and relies on pure workmanship and very little glue; no nails required (the notches in the wood fit together like puzzle pieces). This joint is most commonly used in furniture and cabinet making, because it can sustain a lot of weight.


The dado joint is a very simple joint; it joins together two pieces of wood by fitting one piece into the notch of the other and then fastening it with glue or nails. It is often used in joining plywood and the backs and sides of cabinets and dressers.


The rabbet joint is very similar to the dado joint, but instead of having a notch in the center of the board, it has one on the edge of it. Glue or nails are required to fit the pieces together tightly. This joint is most commonly used when two edges need to join tightly together, like doors and windows.


The half lap joint is used when two pieces of wood need to be joined in the middle, by notches cut into each one. This joint is one of the weaker ones and therefor you would need more than a small amount of glue to secure the pieces properly. This joint is used to create different types of frames and structures.


The tongue and groove joint consists of a slightly angled groove in one piece of wood and a tongue in another. These two pieces fit perfectly and lock together, meaning they can only be separated when lifted up at an angle (no glue or nails are needed). The most common use for this particular joint is to lay down floorboards.




The mortise and tenon joint is one of the oldest joints that are still used today and consists of one piece fitting into another. The mortise is a squared hole that is carved into the side of a piece of wood and the tenon the protruding piece that fits into the hole. This joint is known for its aesthetic beauty and is used for joining exposed beams; therefor it doesn’t need any glue or nails to keep its structure.


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Illustrations by Cherise Minnaar: Having just finished her degree in Visual Communication, Cherise is off to explore her love for interior design.  She believes that happiness comes from living life as simple as it can be.  This small town girl now calls Cape Town her home, but you can still find her in the African bush whenever she gets the chance. See her portfolio here