pins for drawbored mortise & tenon joints

This is my wooden bench hook – I have been thinking of replacing it for a couple of years now, but just haven’t bothered yet. Maybe soon…


wooden bench hook
wooden bench hook


How it got this way is simple, I use it when I make the pins that secure the mortise & tenon joints in my furniture.











First I split the stock from scraps of dead-straight dry oak. Any crook & they get discarded. It is critical that the stock be near-perfect because I want it to be strong enough to snake through the off-set holes in the joint.



splitting pin stock
splitting pin stock


After splitting out a bunch of pieces, I shave them with the largest chisel I have – a 2” framing chisel. I find this to be the simplest tool for this job. The weight of it helps; when I have done this work with lighter weight chisels, I find I was pushing too hard…of course, it’s important to grab the pin stock up higher than the cutting edge.

shaving pins
shaving pins




















shaving pins detail
shaving pins detail




My pins start out about 5” long. Shave them square, and then taper them. Finally, shave them into an octagonal cross-section.









finished pins, red oak
finished pins, red oak




Sometimes, as in this period stool, the tips are pointed. Sometimes not, as in a wainscot chair I saw recently.


17th-century joined stool; pins
17th-century joined stool; pins
17th c wainscot chair; pins
17th c wainscot chair; pins





7 thoughts on “pins for drawbored mortise & tenon joints

  1. …this is funny, Peter. They do tend to get beat up but you may have set a record.

    The solution, of course, is to decide to show people how to make one. I did this for my blog and now have a nice, squeeky clean bench hook :-)

    Cheers — Larry

  2. Peter:The pictures of protruding drawboring pins on the interiors of two 17th-Century pieces are great. As you know, I drawknife my pins. They are longer and have a more slender taper. Their fabrication does nor require your skill and experince. For those who don’t have a shaving horse, Gejigidy Jennie made a simple ersatz workbench top pin jig and put it up on her website.
    We ought to also notice that in your illustrations, the interor tenon shoulders do not touch the stiles!

  3. Peter,
    You just eyball the width/diameter of the pins, right? As I understand it, their function of drawing the joint together does not require them to be an exact diameter, just tight enough to stay put (while the wood shrinks a bit around them).

    By the way, thanks for your ongoing input and advice, Jennie. You got me started with this magic.

  4. Do you work them dry or dry them afterwards and do they do the same thing as the rungs in Jennie’s chairs – swell and even out in moisture and tighten the joint.
    Ditto thanks to Jennie.


  5. In the picture on the 17th century joined stool the pins have a sharp point put on the very ends. Have you seen many that look this way? Could there be a reason for such a harsh point?

  6. Bryan: Peter seems quite busy so I’ll add my 2 cents worth. Most pins that have not been trimmed on the inside of the joint are pointed. Pins have to travel through the offset holes in tenons. Points helps the pins snake their way past the interference. Relatively slender pins hold the entire joined piece together. They need all the care and protection we can give them. True, some pins are sharper than others. It doesn’t matter so long as the points guide the pins through.
    Jennie Alexander

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s