Floating tenons are a type of joinery commonly used in furniture making and woodworking. A floating tenon refers to a type of mortise and tenon joint where the tenon, which is the projecting piece that fits into a mortise (a rectangular cavity), is not fixed but instead is free to move within the mortise.

This design allows for the tenon to expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperature, reducing the risk of cracking and splitting.

In contrast, an integral tenon is a type of mortise and tenon joint where the tenon is fixed within the mortise and cannot move. Integral tenons are often used in structures that require stability, such as door frames and flooring.

While they offer a strong and stable connection, they can be more prone to cracking and splitting under changing conditions due to the lack of movement.

By understanding the differences between floating tenons and integral tenons, woodworkers and furniture makers can make informed decisions about which type of joint will best meet their needs for a particular project.


How to Prepare Floating Tenons

Selection of Tenon Stock

When preparing a floating tenon, it is important to select the appropriate type of tenon stock. This should be a hard and dense wood, such as oak or maple, that can withstand the stresses of the joint.

It is also important to consider the thickness and length of the stock, as well as the width of the mortise when selecting the tenon stock.

Preparation of the Mortise

To prepare the mortise, you will need to carefully measure and mark the dimensions of the mortise on the workpiece.

You can then use a mortise chisel, drill, or router to cut the mortise to the required depth and width. It is important to ensure that the mortise is straight and square, as this will affect the fit and strength of the joint.

Cutting and Fitting the Tenon Stock

To cut the tenon stock, you can use a table saw, band saw, or handsaw. The tenon should be slightly wider and longer than the mortise, with a snug fit when inserted.

This will ensure that the joint is tight and secure and that the tenon does not move around inside the mortise. You may also need to make slight adjustments to the tenon to ensure a good fit, such as sanding or planning it.

Considerations When Using Floating Tenons

Strength and durability

The strength and durability of a floating tenon joint rely on the quality of the adhesive used. The joint is held together solely by the bond between the tenon and the mortise, so it’s crucial that the adhesive used is strong enough to withstand any stress or strain placed on the joint.

The type of adhesive and the method of application can also affect the strength and durability of the joint, so it’s important to choose the right adhesive and follow the best practices when applying it.

Joint size and material thickness

The size of the joint and the thickness of the material being joined can impact the strength of the floating tenon.

Larger joints and thicker materials can place more stress on the bond between the tenon and mortise, potentially leading to failure. This can be mitigated by using a stronger adhesive or by increasing the size of the tenon.

Suitability for the project

The suitability of floating tenons for a project depends on the type of construction and the requirements for the joint. If the joint needs to bear a significant amount of weight or need to be very precise, a floating tenon may not be the best choice.

In these cases, a different type of joint, such as a mortise and tenon joint that uses mechanical interlocking, may be more appropriate.

Factors to consider

When deciding if floating tenons are the best choice for a particular project, it’s important to consider the strength and durability of the joint, the size of the joint and the thickness of the material being joined, and the suitability of the joint for the specific requirements of the project.

By carefully considering these factors, you can ensure that the floating tenon joint will perform as expected and meet the requirements of the project.

Advantages of Using Floating Tenons

Simple preparation

Compared to other types of tenons, such as integral tenons, floating tenons are relatively simple to prepare. To create a floating tenon, a single step of cutting a groove at the end of a board and inserting the tenon into it is required.

This simplicity makes floating tenons a popular choice for woodworkers who want to save time and effort in their projects.


The floating tenon design only requires a single step of cutting a groove and inserting the tenon, which is a significant time-saving advantage compared to other types of tenons that require multiple steps and precise cuts.

Easy assembly

Floating tenons can be quickly and easily assembled using basic tools such as a saw and a chisel. This makes them a great choice for DIY projects and hobbyists who want to get started with woodworking without having to invest in specialized tools and equipment.

No complex processes

Unlike integral tenons, which require precision cuts and joints, floating tenons eliminate the need for multi-step processes that can be time-consuming and complex.


Floating tenons are designed to be adjustable, which means that they can be tightened or loosened to compensate for slight variations in the fit of the joint.

This makes floating tenons a great choice for projects where accuracy is not as critical and for woodworkers who want to make adjustments after assembly.

No tolerance issues

Integral tenons are usually cut to exact specifications and require precise alignment in order to fit securely in the joint.

However, floating tenons do not have the same issues with tolerances and offset shoulders as integral tenons, making them a more flexible and forgiving choice for woodworkers.

Comparison of Floating Tenons Vs Integral Tenons

FeatureFloating TenonsIntegral Tenons
PreparationSimplified preparation processMulti-step process required
TolerancesNo tolerance issuesTolerance issues possible
StrengthDependent on joint size and preparationStronger due to being integrated into the material
VersatilityCan be used in a variety of applicationsLimited to specific applications
Comparison of Floating Tenons Vs Integral Tenons

This table provides a simple comparison between floating tenons and integral tenons, highlighting the key differences between the two.

By considering the features listed in this table, woodworkers and builders can make an informed decision about which type of tenon is best suited for their specific needs.


What is a floating tenon and how does it differ from an integral tenon?

A floating tenon is a type of joinery technique in which the tenon is separate from the main body of the piece, allowing for slight adjustments to be made in the final fit. An integral tenon is one that is cut from the same piece of material as the mortise, making it a permanent part of the piece.

Can floating tenons be used for structural joints?

While floating tenons can provide a strong joint, they are typically used for non-structural applications. For structural joints, integral tenons or mortise-and-tenon joints may be a better choice.

What materials can be used for floating tenons?

Floating tenons can be made from a variety of materials, including hardwoods, softwoods, and man-made materials such as MDF or particleboard.

What are the factors that determine the strength of a floating tenon joint?

The strength of a floating tenon joint depends on factors such as the size and thickness of the tenon, the type of wood used, the fit of the joint, and the glue used.

Can floating tenons be used with different types of wood?

Yes, floating tenons can be used with a variety of different types of wood. However, it is important to choose a compatible type of tenon stock for each type of wood to ensure a strong, durable joint.

What tools are needed to prepare floating tenons?

A variety of tools can be used to prepare floating tenons, including a table saw, a router, a drill, a chisel, and a sanding block. The specific tools needed will depend on the specific project and the type of joint being created.


Floating tenons offer a simple and effective solution for joinery in woodworking projects. The main advantages of floating tenons include their simplicity of preparation, no need for multi-step processes, and no issues with tolerances or offset shoulders.

However, it’s important to consider the strength and durability of the joint, the size of the joint, and the application in different types of building and joinery. When preparing floating tenons, it’s crucial to select the right tenon stock, prepare the mortise, and cut and fit the tenon stock.

Overall, floating tenons provide an excellent option for woodworkers who are looking for a straightforward, versatile, and reliable joinery method. In final thoughts, floating tenons play a crucial role in the world of woodworking and continue to be a popular choice among many craftsmen and DIY enthusiasts.

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