Store-Bought Joinery Solutions

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This article is from Issue 34 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Store Bought Joinery

Discover hardware that offers solid and fast assembly of parts.

Crafting traditional joinery is one of the most satisfying aspects of woodworking. But new materials, modern furniture uses, and the get-it-done-now pace of contemporary life often defy the playbook of conventional joinery.

Thankfully, innovative hardware, such as those items found here, enables you to solve many tough problems in a hurry, producing joints that are both solid and economical. It’s worth having an inventory of these solutions on hand so that you’re always ready to conquer challenges as they arise.

Store Bought Joinery

With wide, low-profile heads on both ends, connector bolts can exert a significant amount of clamping pressure without risking pull-through.

For tops and sides

Countertop Connectors

If you’ve ever installed mitered kitchen countertops, you already know that the countertop connectors, shown above, are indispensable for pulling the mating edges together in instances where it would be difficult or impossible to use clamps. For across-the-joint pressure, these threaded connectors can be effective stand-ins for longer pipe clamps, but you may want to use a face clamp to maintain alignment when pulling the panels together.

The ends of the hardware rest in 35mm holes drilled ½" deep; you link those recesses by routing a ½" channel ⅜" deep. The shorter connecter is located 4" from the outside corner. The longer connectors, spaced about 8" along the joint, spread the clamping pressure over a broader area. You can also use this hardware for T- or L-shaped butt joints. The hardware works just as well in plywood and other panel materials for permanent installation, for knockdown construction, and even as removable assembly clamps.

Connector Bolts and Cap Nuts

When you need to join panels or other components face to face, reach for connector bolts and cap nuts. The installation demonstrated at right is typical for unitizing individual cabinets into a single wall-filling bank. Installation is super easy. Simply drill ⅜"-diameter holes through the parts and use a hex key to tighten the fasteners. To join two cabinets side to side, use four connector bolts, locating them 2" from each corner. Because the bolt stop on the bottom of the cap nut, bolt length matters. 1⅛" bolts are good for joining two thicknesses of ¾" material, 2"-long bolts for thicker materials.

Store Bought Joinery

Screw on the surface-mounted blocks to accommodate the butt joint, join the mating hardware, and secure the joint with the sliding caps.

Surface-Mount Knockdown Connectors

Also known as rapid assembly fittings, these locking blocks live up to their name. To install, simply screw on the mating pairs of plastic blocks, and then fit them together as shown at right. Next, slide on the metal lock caps (inset, far right).

Because these fasteners are not strong enough to firmly hold a box together, add a plywood back to the structure for an effective way to reinforce and stabilize the joints.

For legs and posts

Corner Braces

Tables and chairs endure daily torture, so it’s no surprise that even well-made leg-to-rail joints eventually ache, creak, and even break. But heavy-gauge steel corner braces can turn the tables on this problem, transforming a potentially weak area into a rock-solid solution, shown below. Prepare to install the bracket by slicing tablesaw kerfs ¼" deep 2½" from the shoulder of each rail or apron, and assemble the corners with biscuits, mortise-and-tenon, or other favorite joinery. Choose a hanger bolt long enough to reach the center of the leg and drive it into a pilot hole. (We jammed two nuts on the hanger bolt to do this.) The metal reinforcement can help keep the joint tight for a lifetime. On the negative side, the brace’s geometry provides a narrow range of apron-to-leg reveal dimensions.

Steel braces reinforce vulnerable joinery at the corner joints of tables and chairs to survive daily use—even abuse—by active families.

An Allen wrench snugs up the parts in a cross dowel/connector bolt assembly.

Cross-Dowels and Connector Bolts

When cross-dowels team with connector bolts or other ¼"-20 fasteners they make extremely sturdy H- and L-shaped joints for stretchers and aprons, as seen below. You’ll usually install the cross-dowel in a 10mm through-hole, but blind holes are another possibility. The threaded hole is offset in the 15.8mm (about ⅝") length of the dowel to expand installation options. Even a single cross-dowel joint is remarkably strong, but you’ll need to team up a lone fastener with a mortise and tenon, dowels, or other joint system to keep the stretcher from rotating.

Store Bought Joinery

Clamp the joints in their assembled configuration and plunge straight down to prepare for the L biscuits. Now, tap the biscuit in as shown (inset).

From your biscuit joiner

Lamello Fixo

Go beyond your basic wood biscuits with plastic offerings by Lamello. Developed to solve some tough joinery challenges, they come in two shapes. The L biscuit looks like the standard football shape lopped lengthwise. The H biscuit appears hacked in half crosswise. Both utilize the standard depth setting for a #20 biscuit. Both of these biscuit shapes can streamline your work flow, because their self-tightening action eliminates the need for assembly clamps as well as waiting for glue to dry.

For the L biscuits shown at right, you simply clamp the wood face down on your workbench in its assembled position and plunge across the joint. Separate the pieces, apply glue on the mating wood surfaces if desired, and tap the biscuit in place.

Use the H biscuits for miter joints and other edge work. As shown below, the setup is different, with the edges of the parts (not their faces) placed side by side for the plunge cut. The photo shows a miter joint, but these biscuits, like their L brothers, are adaptable to a wide range of joint configurations. Again, the rows of barbs pull the joint together as you tap the biscuit home. Glue is optional.

After slotting, unclamp the side-by-side pair and turn on edge for assembly. No glue is needed on the H biscuit, just add glue to mating wood surfaces.
The Clamex biscuit produces a joint that doesn’t lose any strength even after numerous knockdown cycles. A simple Torx tool pulls parts together.

Lamello Clamex

The Clamex biscuit from Lamello fits a #20 slot that’s 8mm wide, twice the thickness of regular biscuits. Even without a specialized joiner and blade from Lamello, you can adjust the fence of your present tool to make these slots. The photo and inset below shows how a T-25 (Torx) tool rotates a cam lever to snug up the joint. Unlike most knockdown fasteners, there are no extra parts to juggle at assembly time, and you can neatly stack all the cabinet components, because there’s no protruding hardware. In fact, the only evidence of the hardware after assembly is the tiny 6mm hole for the Torx tool access.

Store Bought Joinery

A pocket-hole jig with a step bit lets you bore the angled holes for the pocket-hole screws.

For pocket-hole joinery

Pocket-hole joinery

Here’s an easy two-step: drill and drive, as shown above. Some pocket-hole jigs are literally small enough to fit into your pocket. Larger models integrate clamping systems and let you drill multiple holes with a single setup. As you might expect, a larger investment means that the jig is more efficient, producing each joint in less time.

Some of the best uses for pocket-hole joinery include joining carcase sides, attaching edging to shelves, and building face frames. Materials can include both solid wood and manufactured panels, so choose the thread pitch of assembly screws according to the target: coarse for panel stock and softwoods; fine for hardwoods. The other screw consideration is length. When the materials are of equal thickness, follow this guide: Use 1" screws for ½" stock, 1¼" screws for ¾" wood, and 2½" screws for 1½" lumber.

A face-frame clamp keeps the parts aligned while you insert the assembly screws with a square-drive bit.

About Our Writer

Robert J. Settich is a woodworker who writes extensively on that topic as well as home-improvement subjects. His work, including photography and original designs, has appeared in leading magazines as well as online. Bob’s latest book is Built-Ins (Taunton Press). He lives and works in Gladstone, Missouri.

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