The Perfect Mortise and Tenon System

Frame Joinery Press Release

Over the years, more than two decades now, I’ve been encouraging woodworkers to adopt a method for perfecting tenons using the extraordinary adaptation of an otherwise ordinary hand tool. It’s not new anymore, but in the beginning, back in the late 1980s, it was quite new and not usual in any way. I developed the technique in my own work because of flawed work produced by my students who lamented the results of chisel and saw work alone.

The Almost Abandoned Hand Router Plane Returns

It’s true, by the late 80s few individuals in woodworking circles using the router plane. For me, I couldn’t imagine woodworking without the aid of an ordinary hand router plane. Yet I was surprised never to see others using this indispensable tool to refine their work, especially the cheeks of tenons. Gradually, year on year, I have seen the router plane resurrected to do much more than its intended use. In its relatively short lifespan in the woodworking industry, the router plane I speak of seemed more abandoned than used. That’s because the now ubiquitous power router replaced it before it became as fully orbed as we have made it to be today.

Total Therapy – Just Total Immersion

We merged two very different technologies to create a subtle blend of harmony in presenting woodworking hand craft and crafting film as the art of harmonised energy.

I lectured on this never-seen system twice this past year, and I think it is pure therapy to watch and do. Please see it to the very end to get the full impact. I just loved watching the film work.

Full credit for the video work to Ellie, Phil and Joseph because this compilation is an ever-unfolding dream coming true!


  1. Dear Paul,
    Thank you again for this excellent methodology and video.
    For the demonstration you have used the tenon as a guide but of course a dedicated guide needs only one side to be cut away.
    As a result, the guide will be more resistant to flexing.
    I know we have to develop sensitivity but the first time there is a tendency to push on the guide instead of just registering the chisel against it. This would result in two skewed half mortises not meeting exactly in the middle. (Don’t ask how I know).

    1. The guide really does not flex to any discernible amount and you do have the longevity of having two faces to wear away at.

  2. Paul,
    Thank you, I REALLY enjoyed the video and the simplification of the process while ensuring accuracy. It is always a breath of fresh air when you teach!

  3. Brilliant! When I saw what you were up to, my jaw literally dropped. This is such a gift! Thank you! Ok, it would have been nicer over the last month when I cut my very first mortises and tenon joints and bridle joints, 4 of each, for my new worktable using Paul’s other (suburb) YouTube instructions but they’re done and they aren’t too bad. Truly, you are a gem, Paul, and I’m deeply grateful.

  4. I agree I think this is a very quick and clean method of producing through mortises. I’m yet to give it a try, but I’m sure once I do it will be my go to method when the need arises.

    Great tip Paul, thanks

  5. I have learned so much from you, Paul, about accuracy, sharpness – and patience. There are all sorts of circumstances in which your lessons apply. Thank you for helping make what can be a frustrating and disappointing exercise into a rewarding, absorbing pastime.

  6. Two questions. (1) what size router bits are you using or recommend. What is the size of the sapele plate attached to the stanley 71. I like this method very much.

    1. Sapele (can be almost any wood really) is 12mm 91/2″) thick. The two bits I used are 12mm wide also.

  7. Paul
    this looks a fantastic approach.
    do you have any suggestions if the tenon is haunched, as at a corner?

  8. Mr. Sellers, I am so curious as to why you use a narrower chisel to clear the chips out of a mortise. Some time ago you blogged about using a paint can opener to clear the chips out of a mortise. I adopted the method as soon as I read about it with wonderful results! Love it! No more damaged mortise ends or pinched fingers.

    1. My audience needs to see what to do with what they have in their hand. If I use the can opener they will often feel that they must do it that way so generally I use what would be most helpful in the zone. I have a lot of planes, saws and chisels I generally don’t use for the same reason.

  9. Paul you missed the shift key and meant to write 12mm (1/2″) thick. But no worries. I got it.

    I will need to buy a second 1/2″ bit or use a 3/4″ or 1/4″ bit.

    Thanks again.

  10. Paul

    Very nice…the evolution of an earlier video where you showed mortising using the “older” mortise chisels vs a regular good quality chisel. Now a tenon and frame piece as a guide…great idea.

    What is the name and model of the roughing router?



    1. It is a Tyzack. I think it has become my favourite to date whereas it used to be the E Preston one I liked the most. Maybe it’s the colour!!! Not made any more but it is quite identical to the E Preston one, which is also no longer made.

      1. It’s hard to be online when the tyzack or Preston’s come up. Is there any disadvantage to using two separate 71 routers? Do you use the larger body one because you have it and like it, or is it strongly recommended for this method?

        1. More to do with span and strength really. Small routers usually have no adjuster too.

  11. As a 76 year old very very novice woodworker, i have never been able to cut a mortice and tenon to my satisfaction, that video was a complete revelation to me, cannot wait to get out in my shed and give it a go, many thanks

  12. Fantastic video. As a novice who has just started – I’m learning woodworking from your two books and your website – this method allowed me to do my first mortise and tenon joint ever. It wasn’t anywhere near as neat as yours but it worked pretty well. I had two problems: only one router and the shaft length of the chisels I have (Stanley Sweetheart) seem a little short. I couldn’t think of a way to solve the first problem (can’t afford another router at the moment), so I just adjusted the depth of the router blade, which was probably a mistake. The second problem was partially fixed by just shortening the length of the tenon jig. So does the method require two routers or is there a way to use only one?

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