What Tools Do You Need for Making a Tongue & Groove Joint?
Below I’ll cover which tools you’ll need for making tongue and groove joints. First I’ll talk about hand tools used for making a tongue & groove joint, then I’ll talk about the power tools used for making a tongue & groove joint. (Note: Some of the below links may earn me an affiliate referral fee, but doesn’t cost you anything).
Handplanes Used for Making Tongue & Groove Joints:
Historically this joint was cut using Tongue & Groove planes. As you can see, there are several styles of tongue & groove planes available, all of which are fun to use.
Wooden Matched Pair Tongue & Groove Planes:
The oldest style that I own is a matched pair, where one handplane cuts the tongue and the other plane cuts the groove.
This is my favorite way to cut the joint, because of the comfort and stability of the plane. However, a good set may not be really easy to find. But definitely keep your eyes open. You can visit this Ebay link to see what’s available.
Come and Go Tongue & Groove Planes:
The next style is called a “Come and Go” plane. You cut the tongue by pushing the plane one way, and cut the groove by pushing the plane the other way. The plane originally came with a wooden body, but was replaced by a metal version in the late 1800’s.
Here you can find both styles on Ebay:
Swing Arm Tongue & Groove Planes:
The most readily available Tongue & Groove plane is called a “swing arm” or “swing fence” plane. You push the plane to cut a tongue, then you simply swing the fence around, and plane the groove. These models are quite common and easy to find.
Here are two models of swing arm planes that I own:
Power Tools Used for Making Tongue & Groove Joints:
Now let’s talk about the tools needed for cutting the tongue & groove joint with a power router. Here I’ll be focusing on using a router to cut the tongue & groove joint, but you can also cut the joint using a dado stack on the table saw. In the future I’ll try to cover that skill. Basically all you need is a router motor, router table, a tongue & groove router bit set, a shop vac, a couple marking tools, and safety equipment:
The heart of this setup is the router motor. It is mounted upside down in the router table. This is accomplished by mounting the router’s fixed-base to a router table insert. Then the insert is set into into the top of the router table. Finally, the router bits are inserted into the collet, and snugged tightly with the collet nut. I mostly use a 1/2-inch collet so that I can use stronger router bits with a 1/2-inch shank.
About five years ago I bought this excellent Bosch router motor that comes with a fixed base and a plunge base. That way I can just leave the fixed base permanently attached to the router table’s insert (because it’s hard to adjust it), and I use the plunge router base when I’m using the router outside the router table (e.g. when I’m plunge routing workbench dog holes or table leg mortises). If you plan on just using your router motor in the router table, then you can buy the motor with the fixed base (find it here).
A router table is used to hold the router motor, and has a fence against which the work is run through the rotating router bit. You can certainly make a good router table, like my former router table (pictured above). But if you’d rather build furniture than make a router table, then a manufactured router table is a great choice. My newer router table (pictured below) is quite affordable and has some great features that make it perfect for my workshop.
I needed something easily portable, so that I can move the router out of the way when classes are in session. I simply clamp the router table to my table saw extension table, or to a workbench. It also has a lot of convenient features, like:
- A fence that adjusts in multiple ways
- A power switch that runs both the motor and the shop vac (my favorite feature)
- A shop vac port
- A nice aluminum table & table insert (you have to buy an insert when you make your own router table)
- Adjustable featherboards & router bit guard
- Side storage
You can find my Bosch router table for $199 here at Amazon
Router Bit Set:
A tongue & groove joint can be cut a couple different ways on the router, but in my above video I used a tongue and groove bit set. Whiteside sent me these excellent router bits to try out, and they work fantastic. Do a little research, and you’ll find that most woodworkers agree that Whiteside makes the best router bits. You can find the router bit set model that I used here at Amazon.
Hooking up a shop vac to the back of the router table is essential, to keep wood chips from flying everywhere. With a shop vac attached, the router method is much less messy than the tongue & groove plane method. You really don’t need anything fancy here. Most any shop vac should work fine. If you don’t have a shop vac, here are some good ones on Amazon (where I do most of my shopping).
To find the center of the board (for locating the tongue) I like to use a wheel cutting gauge (this is my favorite). I also use a 12-inch combination square (this is the one I use) to align the fence with the router bit’s bearing. You could also just use a longer metal ruler if you don’t have a combination square.
The safety equipment that you should use when making a tongue & groove joint on the router table are as follows:
- Safety glasses: These are the safety glasses I use. I buy a multi-pack because I often loose or break safety glasses.
- Hearing protection: I like to use these Bluetooth headphones that my wife gave me for my birthday, because they let me listen to my podcasts in the workshop when I’m doing repetitive tasks, and protect my hearing. They’re also great for mowing & edging the lawn and for chainsaw use.
- Router bit guard: it should come with your router table
- Featherboards: these should also come with your router table. These not only keep the board down for safety purposes, but it gives you a more consistent cut position on the board. I don’t always use a featherboard, but in many situations they are very helpful.