Making a Timber Frame Tenon – The Drop Cut Method
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Making a Timber Frame Tenon – The Drop Cut Method

October 9, 2019

Hey everybody. This is Brice with Timber Frame
HQ. In this timber frame quick tip, we’re going to take a look at using a large circular
saw to make a drop cut, to form a tenon. Now this is a really fast way to make a tenon.
But I will admit, the first time I did it, it was a little uncomfortable. It took me
a while to get used to it. So definitely take your time. Start with a small saw and work
your way up. I think you’ll find that this is a great way to speed up the process of
cutting a tenon. Make sure you wear eye protection and hearing protection, and that you read
and understand everything about your saw. Other than that, let’s get rolling. To get started, the first thing we’re going
to do is to score all the lines we’re going to cut with the power saws. What this does
is it gives the saw and your eye a nice line to follow. It also gives a crisp, clean edge.
So also, when you go back with a chisel, it gives you something to follow. Then, after
that we’re going to cut off each end squarely, making to cuts. For this, we’re going to use
my big foot, which is a skill saw with a 10 and 1/4 inch big foot kit. You can find these
at Of course, two cuts. This saw cuts four inches, and this is a six by. If
you had a 16 inch saw, of course you could this in one cut. But I’ve never made that
investment, and never will. The next thing we’re going to do is transfer
the lines of the tenon down the end. This is going to give us a place to make that drop
cut. We’re going to do it with a pencil and then follow it up with a razor knife. Of course,
scoring that line so we have something nice to follow. For this, I am using the Borneman
square, which is a handy tool. You can pick these up from the Timber Framer’s Guild. They’re
great. Here’s the drop cut. Got the saw going and
we’re just going to let gravity work, and just cut each cut. As I mentioned in the intro,
it took me a while to get used to cutting things this way, so take it slow. If you’re
not comfortable with it, don’t do it. But just make two cuts. This cuts the sides of
the tenon. After you’ve gotten this done, the
next thing to do is to cut off the shoulders. I’m going to switch to my smaller scale saw
to make one cut, because it’s the right size. This is my trusty Porter Cable 7 1/4, that
I’ve had for a number of years. It just keeps on giving. One again, that score line gives
us that nice line to follow. If you can cut the line just right, that’s all you need to
do. What I did was I offset the tenon from the
references two inches, and it’s an inch and a half tenon. So the other cut was a little
deeper, and I needed to use the Big Foot here for that cut. There we are. The next thing to do is just to knock off
that block. Sometimes you don’t get everything lined up, so I just grab my Japanese handsaw
here, and just cleaned up the edges. Sometimes, you can get that just perfect, it just leaves
a little edge there that needs to be cleaned up. So I’m just going to pound down here with
my chisel, clean that up. Then pare it up, nice and smooth. Gotta get those corners.
I just said to myself several times, I just need to get a clamp, but I was videotaping
and so I didn’t. But I would highly recommend, you know, if the piece is moving or doing
anything weird, go ahead and grab a clamp. Clamp it down. That way it’s nice and secure.
It’ll actually make things work a lot better. The last thing I’m going to do is just pare
down the edges of the end of the tenon here. This just makes sure that when you’re raising,
or something like that, it slides in easier and it doesn’t hang up on anything. And that’s
it. Well, I hope you enjoy that video. If you’d
like to find out more about timber framing, head over to Make sure
to sign up for our newsletter and get a free set of Timber Frame sawhorse plans. Take care,
and thanks for watching.

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  1. What are the differences found in the big foot and the makita circular saws? I've Always wondered what determined people's preference.

  2. Nice job with the video. I've always found I have much more control with the drop cut if I stand facing away from the timber and to the left side (I am right-handed as well), then look down to your right and behind you – there is the end of the timber. Hold the saw as you normally would and make the cut top to bottom. I've done it as you have shown as well, and while this method is do-able I feel more like I'd break a wrist if the saw bound up or kicked. To each their own though! As you said, whatever makes you comfortable. Thanks again.

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