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Thread: Exposed joinery - Tusk tenons

  1. #1

    Exposed joinery - Tusk tenons


    I'm in the design phase of a project and looking for examples of exposed joinery. And I'm not having much luck, beyond the Stickley genre.

    I've googled "exposed joinery", "knock down joinery", "through tenon", "tusk tenon", etc. As well as I've been to 3 local book stores. Not much found.

    I know there has to be information around on this. Isn't there a whole design philosophy around it? I seem to recall there was even an "fundamental" form of it, where folks don't use glue or fasteners...just wooden joinery.

    Anyone know where I can find information on these types of joints?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Midlothian, TX
    I've seen these joints a lot on Shaker style trestle tables. In fact, Norm had one in one of his earliest project books. You can check it out your local bookstore or library for the exact one.

    Typically these are loose joints, as you noted, designed so that the piece can be taken apart at some point. No glue or pegs. In general, the main tenon extends through a mortice with another tenon for the "tusk". The back side of the tusk is flat and designed to fit against the piece with the mortice. The opposite side of the tusk and tusk mortice is angled (approx. 7-10 degrees) so that when wedged it pulls the connection tight.

    You can see Norm's example here NA's Trestle Table


  3. #3
    Thanks for the thoughts...that's pretty much all I'm finding.

    The closest thing to what I'm looking for is this example of a table:


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Tidewater, VA
    Mike –

    There is a book by Jeung Chan titled <a href=””>
    Classic Joints with Power Tools</a href>
    that has some examples.

    And another example in PDF format:


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Griswold Connecticut
    Mike. The books are out there, they are just hard to find.
    I have a book by Sam Allen that I used on my tusk tenon project. It's titled Wood Joiners Handbook. I know that Taunton Press has a number of books on the subject. There is a book titled in " In the Craftsman Style" that has a numer of examples of exposed joinery. There is also a book of shop drawings of Gustav Stickley that has excellent exploded joint drawings.
    This is the project that I used exposed joinery on. It completely knoks down to a stack about 6" high and 6' long.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Rogowski's The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery from Taunton Press includes some material on these joints including some nice illustrations on Wedge designs on page 149.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    San Ramon, CA

    Woodworker's Journal Feb '04

    The February 2004 issue of Woodworker's Journal has an article by Ian Kirby on Tusk Tenons, along with plans for a knock-down sofa table.

  8. #8
    You don't have to go all that far or spend any money to find decent detail on how to do tusk tenons:

    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Redwood City, CA
    Here's one. To give you the scale, the wedge is 3.5" tall. It runs vertically.

    I make the hole through the tenon by boring two holes on the drill press and cutting out the web between them. That is, the completed hole through the tenon is oval in cross-section, and it is angled -- as you'd guess from the wedge. The wedge fills only half of the hole, or maybe less. I cut the angle of the wedge to match the angle of the hole, and round the outer corners to match the radius of the drill bit. If you don't get the angles to match exactly, you can adjust the wedge by planing the flat face. It is really pretty easy.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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