Private Woodworking Instruction in a Box
with Hendrik Varju

Produced by Passion for Wood, Ontario, Canada

ISBN 978-0-9881280-2-6

As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 174

Hendrik sells his DVD sets as ‘Private Woodworking Instruction in a Box’. Anyone who has viewed any of his DVDs will relate to this comment.

Hendrik talks and demonstrates as if you are there in the workshop with him. The sets are long – this one is over 10 hours of instruction – but he covers the chosen subject comprehensively. In spite of their length, the tutorials move at a brisk pace.

While Hendrik employs various joints for assembling his furniture, he acknowledges that one of the strongest connections is the mortice & tenon joint. He uses them for the main joints in a bed frame, for instance, and where he wants a joint he terms ‘bulletproof’.

In this set of five DVDs, he looks at forming the mortice & tenon joint using his preferred methods involving the table saw and mortising machine or a drill press with a mortising attachment. He also covers the use of the bandsaw for cheek cuts.

While machines do most of the work, for a perfect joint Hendrik uses hand tools to refine the final fit. Having formed the joint, he then proceeds to glue it together.

The bonus footage with this DVD set is a tutorial on sharpening the hollow chisels used in mortising machines and mortising attachments and a demonstration of how to make through-wedged mortice & tenon joints.

The DVD set begins with a look at forming a mortice & tenon with a router. In a previous DVD set (Using Your Router and Router Table Safely) Hendrik showed how to rout a mortice. However, this is not his preferred method and he discusses his reasons.

The next approach utilises a Forstner bit but this also has its drawbacks.

Hendrik then introduces the hollow chisel with mortising bit. This can plunge into wood up to 50mm deep and leaves a square sided mortice. In addition to neatly forming a hole with parallel sides and right angle corners, the device is also safer and quieter to operate than a router, and produces chips rather than fine high velocity dust.

The hollow chisel and mortising bit can be mounted in a drill press with the use of an adapter. Alternatively it can be mounted in a dedicated tool, ie. a mortising machine. Both options require the provision of a fence to enable rectangular mortices (ie. a progressive series of holes) to be cut and a means of securing the workpiece firmly to the worktable.

Next Hendrik discusses the design and terminology of mortice & tenon joints. He marks out a few joints and points out the possible traps such as interfering tenons.

For the first couple of mortices, Hendrik uses the chisel and bit mounted on a drill press. He explains the various techniques that he uses to fine tune the mortising attachment and ensure an accurately cut mortice.

Hendrik prefers not to use mechanical stops to define the mortices. Instead he cuts them using the marking out lines and then uses hand tools for the final shaping, ensuring that each joint is a custom fit.

In Hendrik’s experience a well-set-up attachment in a drill press will perform equally as well as a mortising machine. However, having a dedicated machine in the workshop is an advantage as it leaves the drill press readily available for other tasks.

With a drill press the mortiser needs to be set up each time. With a mortiser the machine should be ready to use when you need it, but it’s not necessarily accurate or perfect straight out of the box. Hendrik explains the checks and modifications he made to get the best results from his mortising machine.

Having drilled four mortices (two on each machine), he cleans out the bottoms of the recesses as necessary with a mallet and chisels.

When forming the tenons, Hendrik first cuts the tenon shoulders, using a table saw with a cross-cut blade, mitre gauge and single point stop block. A neat trick with shims helps to form a perfect cut around all four sides of the board.

While he only uses one method to form the tenon shoulders, he discusses a few approaches to cutting the cheeks. When using the table saw for this step, he changes to a rip blade.

The first option is a tenoning jig (in this instance a proprietary jig, though many woodworkers make their own). This holds the component perpendicular to the worktable of the table saw. Over two chapters he cuts the face and then the edge cheeks with the jig.

The restriction of a tenoning jig is that it suits shorter components. Very long components must be held vertically which makes them awkward and potentially dangerous to handle in the jig (though Hendrik admits to cutting a hole in his workshop ceiling to handle long boards).

One alternative is to remove the waste from the face and edge cheeks with a dado set in the table saw. This is more time-consuming and does not form as neat a tenon, but it does allow the tenon to be cut with the board flat on the table saw.

Another alternative is to cut the cheeks on a bandsaw. Again the board is flat on the worktable. Hendrik demonstrates both methods.

At this stage Hendrik has four completed sets of mortice & tenon, but none fit. The tenons are deliberately cut a slight fraction bigger than their mortices to allow for final fitting.

The tenons are cleaned up if necessary with a mallet and chisel. The final dimensioning is done with a shoulder plane, or a block plane and chisel (the chisel is required because the block plane can’t cut right against the shoulder). Hendrik then glues the joints together.

The DVD set represents a comprehensive coverage of the construction of mortice & tenon joints using a combination of machines and hand tools. Hendrik’s clear explanation of the processes involved make the DVDs suitable for novices through to experienced woodworkers looking to enhance their skills.

Duration: 10hrs, 58mins, 5 discs

DVD – English – NTSC


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