How to Make Illustrated Finger Joints

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to Make Illustrated Finger Joints
A finger-jointed board is frequently used when making wood boxes. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Finger joints are comblike joints that are cut between two pieces of similar wood to create a stronger joint. The joint is often illustrated on both pieces of wood in order to aid the carpenter in removing the correct areas of waste while preserving the fingers. Several tools are used to mark and illustrate the joint cuts so that the joints will join correctly once the cuts are made. Learning to use these tools takes a little practice, but the finished product is worth the extra effort.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Marking knife
  • Tri-square
  • Vice
  • Marking gauge
  • Tenon saw
  • Firmer chisel
  • Mallet
  • G-clamp

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  1. 1

    Place one of the two similar boards flat on a worktable. Position the second board L-shaped so that the end of the board is aligned over the face of the board it is to be joined with. Align the edges and side and draw a line on the inside edge that shows the thickness of the second board on the face of the first board.

  2. 2

    Place a tri-square on the first wood board so that it lines up with your pencil line. Hold the tri-square firmly and drag a marking knife across the edge of the tri-square. The knife makes a small cut in the wood surface. Turn the wood board and continue the same line, cutting the line with the marking knife on all sides of the board.

  3. 3

    Divide your wood width with the number of finger joints you wish to illustrate and cut. Set this measurement on your marking gauge. A marking gauge is a tool with a guide on one side and a marking device, such as a pencil or knife, on the other side. Set the marking gauge for the first mark. Use the side of the wood and the guide and mark the wood at 90 degrees from your first mark. Mark both flat sides of the wood and the end edge.

  4. 4

    Set your marking gauge to your second measurement. Mark your wood a second time following the same technique. Use a pencil to make cross-hatch marks to indicate the sections of wood you want to remove (every other marked-out section). Repeat across the width of your board.

  5. 5

    Place the board in a vice so that the end is horizontal and the board is vertical. This makes your cuts vertical. Cut along the waste side of the first line using a tenon saw and cutting straight down. After making each of the vertical cuts, turn the wood in the vice and make the horizontal cuts. You are able to cut an end cut this way. For cuts between finger joints, make several vertical cuts across the waste joint area and cut out the remaining waste wood by placing a wood chisel with the bevel toward the waste. Tap the chisel with a mallet and push the wood away from the cut.

  6. 6

    Repeat this same process for the second board except that your waste sections are now opposite from the first board.

Tips and warnings

  • Marking and drawing each finger joint is called illustrating the joint. This simply means that you make the joint visible through your drawings on the wood before you attempt to cut the joint. An illustrated joint is much easier to cut.

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