When woodworkers talk about building fine furniture,
several methods will always be discussed
such as Dovetailed Drawers,
Raised Panel Doors and Crown Mouldings. But, underlying all these classic
features is a carcass that will usually be assembled using traditional
Mortise and Tenon joints that are
commonly thought of
as one of the strongest available.
for most woodworkers, cutting accurate Mortises and Tenons can be a time
consuming and tedious exercise. No matter whether you are doing them
completely by hand or you have machines such as a Chisel Mortiser, Bandsaw
or Table Saw. Getting the layout correct is essential and you then need to
ensure that your cuts absolutely follow your layout lines otherwise a
sloppy, misaligned (or
joint will result.
are jigs such as the new Leigh model that claim to take away all the
tedium out of producing
but these are very expensive and would be out of the range of most Hobby
Woodworkers (and probably quite a few professionals). But there is another
option called the ‘BeadLOCK’
system and that is what we are here to review today.
What is it?
The ‘beadLOCK’ system is based on the loose
Tenon method. That is,
where a Mortise is cut in both pieces to be joined and then a third piece
is inserted into these Mortises forming the Tenon. This
method has been around for a long time so what makes the
Well, as I mentioned before, cutting accurate Mortises can
be a daunting task let alone having to cut two for each Joint. The
BeadLOCK enables you to do this simply, accurately and very quickly using
an ordinary corded/cordless
We received the ‘Dual
Kit’ that allows two different sized Mortise and Tenon in 3/8” and 1/2"
sizes to be produced (A
3/8” only Kit is also available).
Also provided to us was a copy of the Dealer Video that demonstrates how
to use the jig for different applications (This is not included in the kit
in a clear plastic packet that is resealable and contains the following
BeadLOCK jig itself
blocks in 3/8” and 1/2" sizes
A shim set
Two feet of
3/8" and two feet of 1/2" tenon stock cut from premium Birch.
Instructions on the cover sheet
The jig and the guide blocks are made of hardened steel and
the assembled unit resembles a dowel jig. The guide block attaches to
mounting holes in the jig that are slotted so that the guide block can be
moved between two positions, ‘A’ and ‘B’, which are stamped into the jig.
When the guide block is in the desired position, two thumbscrews secure it
in place. The two different positions are used to obtain the overlapping
holes that form the mortise. The jig also has a reference window in the
center that is used to line up the jig to a layout line on the work piece.
The shim set consists of one
1/32" and four 1/16" plastic spacers and are used to offset the jig (more
on this later). I felt that the tenon stock provided is enough to get you
started but more would need to be purchased to get any real use out of
system. Another option that is available is to purchase special Router
bits from the manufacturer that enable you to create your own tenon stock.
These are sold separately and would be well worth the purchase price if
you plan to use the BeadLOCK system on a regular basis.
The instructions provided
are printed on the reverse of the packaging cover sheet. These are quite
in explaining how to use the
jig in its simplest form
but do not explain the more intricate uses of the jig that are presented
in the Dealers Video that we were also supplied
(more on this later).
Fit and finish of all the
supplied items was quite good and I felt that the jig would take quite a
bit of rough handling and still remain accurate
The folks at BeadLOCK recommend that the
1/2" Tenon be
used for heavier applications such as Entrance Doors where the 3/8” Tenon
is recommended for most furniture joints. I chose to start with a
furniture joint so I fitted the 3/8” guide block to the Jig and set the
guide block to the ‘A’ position. For the first test, I decided to join a
1½” square post to a 1½” x ¾” rail.
A little bit of layout is required but this is very easy,
just dry fit the pieces together in the desired orientation and then draw
a crisp line across both pieces,
roughly in the center of the joint. This is your reference line to line up
the jig on each piece for drilling.
I took the first piece (it does not matter which but I started with the
rail) and place the jig on its end and positioned the jig so that the
layout line was aligned in the jig's
reference window. Then we
secured the jig to the piece using my wood vice (a clamp would also be
selecting a Brad
point 3/8” drill bit and 'chucking'
it in my Power Drill, I then placed a piece of masking tape around it to
act as a depth marker. The marker was set at 2 ¼”
being 1” for the actual
mortise depth plus 1 ¼” for the thickness of the guide block. I drilled
the first set of three holes using the holes in the guide block and
stopped when the masking tape on the bit reaches the top of the guide
Now, here’s the clever bit,
I loosen the thumbscrews that hold the guide block and slide it over to
the ‘B’ position then re-tighten the thumbscrews. Only two of the three
holes were now accessible by the drill bit and the third hole gets covered
to ensure you don’t make a mistake. Looking down into the guide block, I
could see that the guide holes are now positioned in between the first set
of drilled holes. I picked up my Drill again and drilled the two remaining
holes. When I removed the jig, I had a mortise that had
edges. Now, if this were a traditional mortise, I would be reaching for my
chisel right about now to smooth out the sides. Not with the
created mortise is a perfect fit for the supplied tenon stock.
Ok, I now had one nice,
clean mortise but that’s not very useful by itself. So I followed the
same procedure described above and drilled the second mortise in the side
of the Post. Now it was moment of truth, would my joint line up correctly?
The Moment of Truth...
took a piece of the tenon stock and cut off
a 1 7/8” long piece -
being 1/8” less than the
total depth of the mortise as recommended in the instructions
- this leaves room for the tenon stock to expand in the joint when glued.
I then dry-fitted
it into the Post mortise and then slid the Rail mortise onto the
tenon. The result, an absolutely perfect fit first time..
Not too bad at all.
After disassembling the parts, I then proceeded to glue
them together. The manufactures recommend gluing the tenon into one of the
pieces first and then gluing the other piece to this assembly. Doing so
makes life a lot easier as you are not juggling three parts at the same
After setting aside this
completed joint, I proceeded to join together other pieces of wood using
different offsets. I also had a go at making an angular joint such as
used on Chair stretchers. To
accomplish this joint required a slightly different technique that was
shown in the Dealer Video we were provided. As before, each and every
joint was perfect and all of them were very easy and fast to create.
All the joints created were very, very
strong. In fact, I tried to break one of the test joints and only
succeeded in cracking the wood NOT the joint. This strength comes about
due to the extra glue area provided
by the wavy mortise and matching tenon, which is another
While the jig was a delight to use, there
was one area I felt could do with some improvement and that is the
supplied Instructions. As I mentioned before, the instructions are quite
clear and easy to understand but are limited to simple joints.
In the Dealer Video, several methods are shown using the
jig that are not explained on the instruction sheet. In particular, the
angular joint method that involves making an angled support block that is
placed on the rail stock so that the Jig is on the same plane as the other
piece of stock.
Another method that is mentioned but not explained is the
joining of narrower parts than the supplied tenon stock. The instructions
mention that you can cut down the tenon lengthways but fail to mention
that you should now only use two holes on the guide block for the initial
cut and then only one to complete the mortise. Again, this is explained
and demonstrated in the Dealers Video and, while it is obvious, beginner
users would probably be caught out.
The last point I will make, and this is not a criticism, is
the amount of supplied tenon stock. While a very reasonable amount is
provided considering the cost of the kit, you will very quickly run out
and more will need to be purchased. I would suggest that if you were going
to use the
BeadLOCK for a project, check that you have enough tenon stock
on hand. I would be a bit of a pain to run out and then find out your
supplier has also run out of stock.
Overall, I was very
impressed with the
considering I had some doubts before it arrived regarding accuracy and
fit. While I felt the
instructions could do with a bit more detail, they do explain the basic
usage of the system and the Jig does exactly what is claimed and it does
it quite well. In fact, I think my dedicated Chisel Mortiser may end up
gathering a few cobwebs!
BeadLOCK Router Bits
BeadLOCK Router Bits Mini-Review!
Tool Company kindly set us both their 3/8" and 1/2" Router bits for
review. These bits are used to create your very own tenon stock for use
with the BeadLOCK jig. The Bits came packaged in plastic containers with a
common Instruction sheet. It should be noted that these Bits are only for
use in a Router table.
After reading the
short instructions, we set about preparing some stock to size. We were a
bit disappointed with the instructions in this department as only a rough
guide is given to the width required. To solve this problem we resorted to
using two pieces of BeadLOCK tenon stock (3/8" and 1/2") and measured
The instructions told us to place the bit in the Router table and to set
the bit height so that 'flats' will be formed on the top and bottom edges
of the stock. While this was OK, we found the easiest way was, again, to
use existing tenon stock as a guide to set the bit height and also the
fence position for cut depth.
Starting with the 3/8" Bit first, we set up and then routed one side of
our blank using a push block as recommended in the instructions. We will
admit that we forgot about one point in the instructions and ended up with
a nice looking piece of tenon stock, except that the beads were slightly
out making it useless. To correct this, you must turn the stock around but
ensure that the same edge that was facing up on the first pass is still
facing up on the second pass to ensure the beads will line up. We also had
a small problem with the stock riding up a bit at the end of the second
pass and ruining the tenon. This was easily solved by using a finger board
to hold down the stock during routing. After this small learning curve,
our second piece turned out perfectly and we continued to make four more.
Placing the 1/2" bit in Router table, we followed the same procedure as
above and created a couple of 1/2" tenons. We had no problems this time
around, so perhaps testing on some scrap wood first may be a wise choice
when you first use the router bits.
To ensure our machined stock was OK, we set up the BeadLOCK jig and
drilled out two mortises in the two sizes. Both sizes of routed tenons
fitted perfectly! A very good outcome indeed!
After the few small difficulties we had with the first piece, subsequent
tenons were machined without any problems. Results were good and, over
time, a significant cost saving would be achieved. The bits seemed to be
quality, sharp tungsten carbide material with a clean finish and we felt
that they would last a very long time as only a small amount of stock
needs to be removed when creating the tenons.
One point we will make is that the instructions could, again, do with a
few more details. In particular, the exact width of blank stock that is
needed to achieve acceptable results.
Apart from this, we were very happy with the bits and would recommend them
to users of the BeadLOCK jig. If you have a Router Table, investing in the
BeadLOCK Bits will enable you to create your own stock as required and
also save money in the long term.
NOTE: The BeadLOCK
kit is now manufactured and sold by Rockler.
Order Online through these companies...
Click graphic to go to
their direct product page for this item
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