Save on Pinterest

4 Proven Methods for Creating Wood Joints

Make strong, long-lasting joints without needing years of woodworking expertise or a big budget.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

1 / 13
Simple Joinery Options FeaturedFamily Handyman

Stronger Joints Are Better

Traditional hand-cut joinery requires skill and a great deal of practice to master. But are those fancy joints necessary? Not really. It’s totally fine to use mortise-and-tenon or dovetails when a project calls for it. But for most projects, you just need joinery that’s strong and simple. The four best methods for joining wood together are pocket screws, dowels, biscuits and the Beadlock system. Just because there are four methods doesn’t mean you have to master all of them to be a good woodworker. Give each of them a try, pick one or two methods you like the most, and then practice those methods until you’ve got them nailed down.

2 / 13
simple joinery options

Pocket Screw Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fast
  • No clamping required

Cons

  • Visible holes
  • Doesn’t provide positive alignment

You can get a basic pocket hole kit online for about $30. You’ll need a supply of different lengths of special self-drilling washer-head screws. The only tool you’ll need outside of the kit is a basic drill driver. Once you’ve become used to the pocket screw method you can pick up more clamps, accessories, and jigs to really step up your production. The only downside to pocket screws is that without special clamps, they don’t provide positive alignment of parts for assembly.

3 / 13

simple joinery options

How to Join Wood With Pocket Screws

To use a pocket hole jig, just clamp your workpiece in the jig and drill the steeply angled holes. The thickness of the stock you’re drilling into determines the jig’s positioning as well as the setting of the drill bit’s stop collar. The included drill bit bores a flat-bottom hole with a short pilot hole at the center to guide the screw into the adjoining part.

4 / 13
simple joinery options

Add Glue and Screw Together

Apply glue, clamp the parts together and drive the screws. Some pocket hole jigs are portable, so you can clamp them onto a workpiece that’s too large to put on your workbench.

5 / 13
simple joinery optionsFamily Handyman

Pros and Cons of Dowels

Pros

  • Positive alignment both directions
  • Mating dowel holes can be positioned anywhere using dowel centers.

Cons

  • Requires clamping
  • Slow

A solid, easy-to-use doweling jig will set you back around $70. You’ll need a supply of dowels and, like the pocket hole method, the only tool you need is a drill. Dowels for joinery are different from standard dowel rods found at the hardware store. Joinery dowels are grooved to keep glue from getting trapped in the bottom of the hole, preventing the parts from pulling together. The greater gluing surface provides a somewhat mechanical grip.

Unlike pocket screws, dowels provide positive alignment of parts. Pocket screws will also result in both sides of the joint look the same, without exposed screws.

Plus: Check out our full guide to using a dowel jig here.

6 / 13
simple joinery options

How to Join With Dowels

The doweling jig we use is a self-centering jig with an integrated clamping mechanism. Mark the hole locations on both parts, clamp the jig into place, and drill the hole.

7 / 13
simple joinery options

Add Glue and Insert the Dowels

Apply glue to the dowels and mating parts. Press the joint together and clamp. You can use shims with this jig to drill holes for offset parts. When necessary, use dowel centers to mark the starting points for drilling into the adjoining part.

8 / 13
simple joinery optionsFamily Handyman

Pros and Cons of Biscuits

Pros

  • Fast
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to offset parts
  • Effective dust collection
  • Positive alignment in one direction

Cons

  • Requires clamping
  • Parts can slide during clamping

A good plate or biscuit joiner runs anywhere from $100 to $700. The $700 variety is really nice, but it’s not necessary for an amateur woodworker. A modestly priced model works just fine. A plate joiner cuts a semicircular slot in adjoining parts to accept a plate/biscuit, which is then glued in place. Biscuits come in different sizes to accommodate various part dimensions.

Learn everything you need to know about gluing wood here.

9 / 13
simple joinery options

How to Join Wood With Biscuits

Mark joint center lines on adjoining parts. Set the plate joiner to the desired cutting height, and the cutting depth to match the biscuit size you’re using. Line up the guide mark on the joiner’s fence with your mark and plunge the cut.

10 / 13
simple joinery options

Glue Up and Insert the Biscuits

Apply glue to the mating surfaces and in the slots. Insert the biscuit, press the joint together and clamp.

11 / 13
simple joinery optionsFamily Handyman

Pros and Conse of BeadLock

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Positive alignment in both directions

Cons

  • Slow
  • Requires clamping
  • Sawdust sticks in the holes
  • Jig is not self clamping

A BeadLock jig facilitates drilling mortises in adjoining parts, again using only a drill. The basic kit is $30. This is one of many “loose tenon” systems. Instead of the tenon being cut from one of the adjoining parts, precut tenon stock is glued into a mortise in both parts. BeadLock mortises are just a series of overlapping holes, and the tenon stock looks like a stack of dowels.

12 / 13
simple joinery options

How to Join Wood With Beadlock

Mark the joint center line on both parts, position the jig using its alignment guide, and then clamp the jig in place. Drill the first set of holes, slide the drilling block to its second position and drill the second set of holes. Repeat the process on the mating part.

13 / 13
simple joinery options

Add Glue and Insert the Tenon

Apply glue to the mating parts and the BeadLock tenon. Press the joint together and clamp.

Brad Holden
Brad Holden, an associate editor at The Family Handyman, has been building cabinets and furniture for 30 years. In that time, he has absorbed so many slivers and ingested so much sawdust that he's practically made of wood.