Antique Furniture Mortise and Tenon Joining

By John Tope

The male part or tongue is called the Tenon, and the female recessed cut it enters on the other side is called the Mortise.  These were glued together with hide glue.  In American chairs, it can indicate that it was made before the Civil war.  New furniture can also be made using this method.  How do you tell the difference?  The old joint is made either with a mallet and chisel or a series of holes are drilled in a line and then squared with a chisel.  You can many times see the chisel marks on the sides and in the corners of the hand made mortise and in the tenon.  Motise and tenon joints made by hand was the only way to do it until the 1840’s.