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Traditional Joints Used in Timber Framing

By Caitlin on December 14, 2017


In this blog post, we’re going to look at some of the Traditional Joinery Methods we use for our Timber Frames. These are traditional joints that have been used in woodworking for centuries and they are strong and durable. While we use Traditional Joinery Methods at Vermont Timber Works, we will sometimes reinforce traditional connections with steel plates and ties that can either be hidden from view or used as decorative accents.


Mortise and Tenon

The primary joinery method of the Timber Frame is the basic Mortise and Tenon joint. This joint involves a stub (Tenon), fitting into a hole (Mortise). Then a peg is inserted into the connection site to further strengthen and stabilize it. The Mortise and Tenon joint is the primary type of connection used in Timber Framing with varying degrees of complexity. Below are some of the ways Mortise and Tenon Joints are used:

Shouldered Mortise and Tenon

Brace Mortise and Tenon

King Post with Webs and Finials connected with Mortise and Tenon.


Dovetail Joint

The Dovetail Joint is a truly ancient joinery technique that has been found on furniture in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs and Chinese Emperors. The Dovetail joint gets its name from the diagonally cut fingers that resemble the tail feathers of doves. This shape holds the connection after it has been assembled and makes it very difficult to pull apart. In Timber Framing, the Dovetail Joint is used to connect roof purlins and floor joists to rafters and girts.

Dovetail Joint


Tongue and Fork Joint

Also known as the “Bridle Joint,” this technique features a Mortise that is open on one side and forms a fork shape, allowing the Tenon to slide in. The connection is then secured with a peg. In Timber Framing, this joint is used to connect common rafters together.

Tongue and Fork Joint


Scarf Joint

Also called the “Splice Joint,” this is a lesser-used joinery technique in Timber Framing. This method involves notches being cut into two pieces of Timber which are then fitted together end to end and secured with a peg in the center of the connection. It isn’t one of the strongest connections and is generally only used when a piece of timber needs to be longer and instead of sourcing a larger piece of lumber, two smaller pieces are joined together.

Scarf Joint

A scarf joint connects two timbers together to make one.

These are the Traditional Joinery Techniques that we’ve been using at Vermont Timber Works since we began Timber Framing in 1987. Questions about Traditional Joinery techniques? Submit a question on our Ask the Experts page, or leave us a comment below.

1 comment
  1. Peter Hunt says:

    very helpful.

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