The butt joint is arguably the easiest method of joining two boards or panels. It is used to increase a panel’s width rather than the length of the board. You can butt joint wood in a variety of different ways: edge to edge, end to edge and end to side for example.
While it isn’t the strongest joint, it is useful in certain situations. It is best for rough or rustic work where time is more important than appearance. In any case, utilizing the correct technique can help boost the strength of butt joints and you can add fasteners such as glue, nails or screws.
In this article, we show you how to create a simple butt joint and offer advice on the different fastening methods that can keep the joint strong and secure.
How to Make a Butt Joint
Begin by cutting out the two pieces of wood to the size you need. Measure and mark the position for the butt joint on your wood. Proceed to cut the wood and do the same with your second piece.
Hold the first piece in place on the marks; you can use a vice for this. Add some glue to the top of the wood and put the second piece directly over the first piece and make sure you line up the edges. Now you have the option of clamping up the joint or fastening it in place with nails or screws.
Before allowing it to dry, double check to ensure the butt joint is square. You also have to make sure it is square when you decide to put nails or screws into it. Another way of strengthening your butt joint is by securing a triangular or square piece of wood to the inside of the joint; this does a good job of preventing movement.
Butt Joint Reinforcements
If you want your butt joints to stand the test of time, it is necessary to add reinforcement of some kind. As well as adding strength and durability, it ensures the parts stay aligned when you’re gluing them together. There are several different methods to reinforce your butt joint and we examine some below.
Nails & Screws
You can add either of these fasteners to the joint to hold it together until the glue dries. This is an excellent option if you’re making cabinets, drawers or boxes as they don’t suffer much strain when in use.
However, you should not use nails and glue when assembling an end to edge butt joined frame. The end grain of the wood is porous and doesn’t offer much strength when it is glued. Any stress or flexing is likely to break the glue joint and the nails will also be pulled out in the process.
This is an old-fashioned method of strengthening butt joints and involves using cylindrical dowels fitted into holes you drill in both joint parts. Dowels are typically made from hardwood and are ribbed along their length. This allows the glue to spread around them when assembling the joints so you get a strong bond.
If you go down this route, be sure to drill the holes in the exact same place in both pieces of wood. If there is even a slight variance, the dowels either won’t fit or the entire piece will be misaligned.
Biscuit joinery was developed in Europe around 50 years ago and involves using wood biscuits shaped like footballs. You glue them into slots in order to create strong joints between butt joints. They can be made very quickly which makes biscuits an option if you’re short on time.
Cut the slots with a plate joiner and use carpenter’s glue on the biscuit joints as it swells them thus forming an impressively tight and strong joint. Biscuits are ideal butt joint reinforcements if you’re looking to join drawers, trays, boxes and chests.
You can use the butt joint on any project that needs a surface or panel wider than the available material. When you join two boards along the edge, you can enhance the design and create something of real beauty. However, it is not the best choice if you want to join an end to an edge or two ends as it is not strong enough on its own. You can reinforce your butt joint in a number of ways including nails, screws, biscuits and dowels.