Mortice and Tenon

This is essentially a technique to join two pieces of wood together at right angles to each other.

The mortice hole is cut into the side of one piece, and a tongue (the tenon) is cut from the end of the other. The tenon is seated tightly into the mortice, and the two are secured in place by means of a wooden peg (which used to be called a trennell - which comes from tree-nail). The peg was made out of riven wood and then cut into shape with a chisel or knife giving them a slightly squared shape which helps them to grip the wood when they are driven into the joint.

On the outside the head of the peg is left standing slightly proud of the surface, except for inside a chest where a person may catch their hand.

You can see that we still use these methods today when making our furniture in the traditional way.

The Joiner

- usually works on smaller pieces of timber than a Carpenter. On a ship the Shipwright would work with wood 4 inches and above and the Ship's Joiner would work with wood 4 inches and below.

The art of joining two pieces of wood together using jointing such as mortice and tenon and framed panel was devised in the 16th Century, this revolutionised furniture making as the joiner was no longer restricted to using only single boards.  

The Carpenter


The work of a Carpenter was primarily that of a housewright (he built houses) or shipwright (he built ships). The first Ordinances of the Brotherhood of Carpenters was granted in 1333 and they were seen as the head of the allied building trade and normally acted as the contractor for the whole construction and finishing of a timber building.

'He squareth the Timber with a Chip-axe, and saweth it with a saw, afterwards he lifteth the Beam upon Tressels, by the help of a Pully, fasteneth it off with Cramp-irons, and marketh it out with a Line. The he frameth the walls together, and fasteneth the great Pieces together with Pins'.

There was a great deal of rivalry between Carpenters and Joiners and in 1632 a ruling was made by the London Court of Aldermen that Carpenters could not use tenon joints in the making of furniture and so officially carpenters furniture was limited to simple nailed boards. 'Boarded and nayled together.' However, this was often not the case.