Why Hourly Rate Motels are Good for Toolmaking…

Last week I actually made something.

Sounds weird I know, but I get almost zero shop time—Hollywood starlets are cat fighting over my availability (those old black and white films I starred in just won’t go away), my dogs eat golf balls when I am not looking, and I have a such a terrible way with words (domestically speaking) that I find myself in cheap motels…

For example, NEVER say this to your wife when she serves you dinner;

“What is this, a placebo?”

So, last week after I got kicked out of the house, I was kicked out of the motel (I only paid for an hour). It’s not as bad as it sounds as I have a thing for shag carpets.

I ambled down to our prototype shop and made the parallelogram sled and tenon attachment posted earlier. The tenon attachment was made almost exclusively using the table saw and the KM-1 Kerfmaker.  It was my first REAL project with the KM-1 and it was shockingly easy. Fun. Amazing. Did I mention I love this tool! (Yes, this is an unabashed plug, but an honest one.)

We needed the sled and tenon attachment to film the TM-1 Tenonmaker video which is coincidentally, or miraculously (considering Michael worked on it) posted below.

As you can see in the pic below the mortise and tenon joints are flawless .  These are through mortise and tenons and they are the hardest because… they are the hardest.  And I know you know this.

Here’s the video;

Yes, I used to make furniture. Some of it actually sold. But I can honestly say, in all these years, going way back to the mid-1960’s, I have never made more perfect fitting joints in such a short period of time.

Actually, forget the time, these are dead perfect in every respect and I can’t remember doing this in such an easy fashion. Ever.

Furthermore, I have not made a mortise and tenon joint since 1982!

Easy perfection? That is no oxymoron.

The TM-1 will prove it.


PS: Last night I came up with a new line;

“I don’t know how you did it, but this is the best canned soup I have ever eaten! Besides the Spam, did you add some salt?”

Didn’t work–But I was close!

Oh, one last thing. Please tell all your friends about the TM-1 Tenonmaker. Just once I would like to stay in a Holiday Inn after dinner.

33 comments on this post:

  1. John;

    I like both Spam and salt in my soup and in my cereal too.

    At our company picknik they had all this fancy stuff with beans but I like what I like and didn’t have any fun.


  2. John,

    I’ve wanted one of these as soon as I knew they existed; I’ve needed one ever since I started woodworking! It’s just too cool to have the ability to make perfect joints right off the saw.

    Since I have no friends, I have ordered two for myself, If that is not an acceptable substitute, please let me know, and I will order some more!


    P.S. I think Fred has some extra room at his house, so the next time you get kicked out, you can tip his POC entertaintment center over and put an air mattress on it!

  3. Rutager;

    I knew there was a use for Fred’s Entertainment Center…

    I like your JMP accessory for tenon work. Our video leaves out many unimportant details but the JMP needs an accessory for tenons–they do come out dead perfect (but not with a dull blade!). Thanks for posting that in the JMP forum section.

    People are going to be blown away with the results this tool provides and I suspect for many, this may be their very first perfect tenon work without clean-up.

    Thanks for the business!


  4. John,

    I too ordered two. Don’t tell Rutager but I know my two will be better. I felt as if I HAD to order it as the video showed a bridle joint. 😮


  5. I wish I had one of these now. I’m going to be cutting a buttload of tenons over the next couple of weekends. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next project to use it.


  6. Deeply cool, John. Rutager’s putting the screws to me to buy one. Or two. Still haven’t figured out how I’d use it, but Rutager apparently is doing some leg work for me on that.

    Only slightly off topic: how did you get those lovely through mortises? Tenons are one thing. But perfectly rectangular mortises? Not so easy. And I can’t figure out how you’d do it with the JMP, so I’m guessing some other tools were involved…

    – Peter

  7. Peter;

    Since you are going to WIA, I will share my mortises. Only if…

    you share (internet here) they are perfect.

    AND, they are perfect.

    Eat your heart out.


    PS: Of course I used the yet to be released MM-1 mortise maker… plus, I have some land to sell in Greenland too.
    And that said, it is a remarkably simple task if Americans were willing to spend more than the cost of a Snow Cone for a good Try Square.

  8. What we need is a WIA contest. We need to guess how many “Lumber Jocks” will approach you and tell you they made their own TM-1 during the show.

  9. Well, John – your mortises certainly looked perfect from where I sit. I’ve never made as beautiful mortises myself – at least, not ones with square corners. And no blow-out on the other side.

    Okay – to be honest – I’ve never tried a through-mortise. But I know it wouldn’t be pretty. Regardless of how well I mark it. (I LOVE the CS-2 with the mortise attachment, by the way!)

    – Peter

  10. Peter;

    Try this;

    You need a good square and we recommend the BCTW DSS-6 (surprise).

    You need sharp chisels and if you do a lot of mortise and tenon work, mortise chisels are fantastic because one almost always sizes the mortise width to a specific chisel width and this is what makes perfect square corners.

    Layout the location of the through mortise from both faces with a marking gage (the Centerscribe with mortise attachment is even better) because you will work inward from both faces-obviously the exit face is the most critical. If your stock is not square, you are in trouble with this technique–the mortises will be shifted in relation to each other.

    I like drilling out the bulk of the material and I drill a bit over half way from each face. DJ-1 works great here.

    Chop, chop, pair and you are done.

    Some lazy weekend do a practice joint. You will be surprised how clean it will be. If you don’t have mortise chisels, you can align the chisel back to a square for the first whack.
    One trick I like: make the tenon a bit long and then with a block plane, add a small micro chamfer to all four corners of the tenon end. This helps with assembly but it also makes it almost impossible to snag a corner on the exit face.
    I believed that through mortise and tenons were more difficult than dovetails (4 perfect faces vs 3) but that has now changed because the TM-1 makes it ridiculously easy now.

  11. Chris;

    It is for these situations;

    The stand off is needed for the tool to be a functioning flip stop, but gets in the way when the mortise is inland.


  12. DSS-6? Check.
    CS-2 with mortise attachment? Check.
    DJ-1? Nope, though have router with Mortise Pal…
    Mortise chisel? Nope. At least, not yet.
    Sufficient skill? Remains to be seen…

    Thanks, John. This’ll be good practice during those long, cold San Diego nights.

    On a different note, Philip Marcou will be at the WIA with a load of his planes of various sizes, shapes and angles. Any interest in bringing some of yours (which I can no longer buy) so that someone (like me, for instance) could compare a BCTW smoother to a Marcou, Sauer, Brese, etc? The extra weight would be good exercise for you…

    – Peter

  13. Peter,

    “This’ll be good practice during those long, cold San Diego nights.”

    You’ll never get anywhere if you practice only twice a year…


  14. No, but I did do a bridle joint in two Starbuck’s sticks about a year ago.


    And fairly useless. The saw kerf for the female was around .024″, leaving cheeks around .013″ each.
    I was just goofing off testing the accuracy of the JMP.


  15. John,
    Do you have something against mortise and tenon joints? I understand you have a demanding day job but 28 years is a long time. ??? I was barely out of diapers in 82.

    Nice Job on the TM1. Do you think they will be ready in Nov-Dec?

  16. Charles;

    I know it has been a long time! I am trying to do something about it, but you folks keep me too busy.

    We are going to do our best to get them out of here by Dec. That said, anybody who knows me, knows I have glaring personal flaw called manufacturing optimism. And after all these years, it is likely incurable. (It is ironic that an old clockmaker like myself can’t manage time any better…)


  17. “It is ironic that an old clockmaker like myself can’t manage time any better…”

    Making time and managing time are two different things…

    – Peter

  18. Time:

    An absolutely linear function, but our perception of it changes so wildly. Why is that? I never could figure it out.


  19. DJ:

    Safe to assume you have been late for dinner a time or two?

    Have a shop?

    I love the perception of time. There is a terrific book, (we used to sell it) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”.

    For some reason, I gravitate to writers from the University of Chicago, and this book was the very first attempt to understand human happiness. Everybody wanted to study misery…kind of like the guy who turned a handsaw upside down…

    Anyway, kidding aside, happiness occurs when time is either compressed (honey, I will up for dinner in 10 minutes…and an hour or two later…) or when time expands; how the hell did that figure skater just do four revs?…and when asked, replied, “I don’t know, I felt like it was slow motion…”

    And if you are wondering, it is pronounced, “Chick sent me High”. Do the math on that one!



    PS: If you can find a copy, it is a keeper.

  20. P.S. John – I hope the dogs are okay. It can’t be good for them to eat golf balls. Our neighbor’s dog at 33 balloons the other day. Required a trip to the vet to induce vomiting. 32 balloons with the first injection. One with the second. Wheee! Our vet has a chart on the wall with the weirdest things she’s had to remove from dog’s stomachs. Some pretty amazing stuff there…

  21. Hey John

    Wish I was at MASW next week one quick question. I don’t want to cut into sales but with Rutager and Fred doubling up on these things that shouldn’t be a problem. The two tools look very similar and I have watched the video a couple times. Can the TM-1 preform the same function as the KM-1?

    Say hey to Marc for me.


  22. Brendan,

    The KM-1 subtracts one kerf and the TM-1 adds one kerf. The Kerfmaker cannot directly gauge a mortise. From our view, and others may differ, it is not worth the hassle to convert one to the other. I tried this and you would need a manual to remember all the steps.

    I will pass on the greeting to Marc.

    Good question.

    PS: I am responding to your post from 30,000 feet on my way to WIA-internet works well and fast.


  23. So after playing with a Tenonmaker this weekend at the WIA, I’m thinking that it needs to have one of the light-gray legs shorter than the other so that you can gauge the length of mortises that are narrower than the width of the Tenonmaker. I gather a flip-up leg would reduce rigidity, but if one leg were a few mm short, it might do the trick.

    – Peter

  24. Peter;

    That would be great and I did try. At the end of the day, cost considerations won out.

    FYI, it is doable but not affordable.


  25. John,
    I can’t resist:
    When a dog throws up your homework, it’s ruined.
    When a dog passes your homework, it’s graded.


    P.S. Brilliant on the flipping standoff

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