Monday, July 22, 2019

Weekend exercise: mitered bridle joint

This weekend my wife asked me for a small low coffee table to be used outdoor on our fire pit deck space. More than a coffee table I guess it will be mainly used as a wine table.
The table will look more or less like this:

Wine table first draft.
For this project I choose to use some western red cedar, first because it holds well outdoor but also because I like the way it looks. The table top will be composed of a square frame made with 2"x4" enclosing a center part. The legs will be made with 4"x4" and the box apron again with 2"x4".
Overall dimension will be a cube of 18"x18"x18".

So I started by a challenge to myself and took the opportunity to test my skills (if any) by creating the top frame using hand cut mitered bridle joints. It will be the first time I try to make these fully by hand and I am not sure about how it will go or how much easy (or difficult) it will be, especially that red cedar is not the easiest wood to work with. It is quite knotty and very soft so without sharp blades it is crushed more than cut.

After having cut four 18" long pieces for the table top frame, I started to work on the tenoned parts. I marked the 45 degrees angle as well as the tenon thickness on both sides and ends. I then used my Stanley miter saw to carefully make the 45 degrees cut on each sides.

Cutting a 45 degrees angle.
I was very careful to not cut past the correct depth so not to damage the tenon.

Often checking the depth of cut.
Being right handed I used a C clamp to hold the board while cutting the opposite angle.

Using a C clamp to hold the board.
The Stanley miter box made a nice and clean cut right on the line.

Clean cut.
Next step was a bit more difficult, this was the first time I tried to cut the angled tenon using a tenon saw.

Cutting tenon using the tenon saw (obviously).
That tenon saw blade was just high enough for the cut.

First side cut, not perfect but not too bad.
... and both sides cut.
Not perfect, the tenon is a bit narrower at its
base and will need adjustment

After a bit of cleanup of the cut with my chisel and shoulder plane I got a first piece done.

First part done, 3 to go.
After the second tenoned frame part I started to tackle the corresponding mortised parts. First step was to cut the two pieces to length with 45 degrees angles on each end. There again I used the miter box.

Two pieces cut to length at 45 degrees.
After having marked the mortise I used my tenon saw to cut each side of the mortise.

Sawing each side of the mortise.
For the first piece I used a chisel to chop out the waste, it was quite time consuming and not very clean in that soft cedar.

Using a chisel to chop out the waste.
For the second piece I used my coping saw to cut out most of the waste and only had to chop the last remaining. This was much much quicker than chopping out everything with a chisel.

Now that all frame parts are cut I did a quick dry fit to see the result of my little exercise.

Dry fit, not too bad but far from perfect.
I will need some more work on these joints...
At first sight the result was not too bad but not perfect either. Two of the joints are acceptable but two of them are really not good. I will need some rework to make these tighter. This will come later on but for now I need to tackle the central part of the table top.
I changed my mind since I started. The initial plan was to make a plain central part with board assembled using tongue and groove. Finally I opted to use boards with 1/4" space between them. As this small table is meant to stay outside, the space between the boards will allow any rain water to drain.

I started with a 5"1/2x1" board. I needed to cut two length of 13" and to re saw them in two.

Re sawing the board in two with my Canadian Disston.
 After a bit of planning I ended with 4 boards, each being 13" long and 2"7/16 wide. Each will be spaced by 1/4" and will have a 1" tenon at each end, what will give me a 11"x11" square in the middle section of the table top.

After cutting the tenons I finally got all my parts ready for fine tuning and assembly.

All table top parts ready for fine tuning and assembly.
Next I will need to assemble the top and work on the legs and box apron.


  1. Nice. With 4x4 legs, that is going to be a very stout table!

    1. Thank you Matt, I still need to improve on the quality of these joints to be satisfied!

  2. Those miter bridle joints looks good, the gap at the miters look even. They should close up tighter when clamped (pic is dry fit I hope :-) If not trim your tenons a bit. Remember that miters open and close with changes in RH. Being reinforced and glued bridle joints they should resists some movements.