May 11, 2021
A 90-degree joint is something no woodworker can avoid forever. Eventually, you’d have to join two wood pieces at a right angle to one another. However, if this is your first time trying to make a right angle in the workshop, there is no need to panic. We’ll walk you through how to join two pieces of wood at 90 degrees like a pro!
One of the essential qualities of an excellent woodworker is their ability to create strong, tight, and seamless joints. Indeed, almost every wood project will require you to join two pieces together. In other words, wood joinery is a skill you want to possess, and of course, master.
Today, we will share some insight into the various methods you can use to create a sturdy 90-degree wood joint. Furthermore, we’ll also give you some pro tips to help you shorten your learning curve and achieve excellent results.
So, if you want to learn how to join two pieces of wood at 90 degrees, this is the place to be.
Best Methods for Joining Wood at Right Angles & 90°
Naturally, there are several ways you can achieve a 90-degree wood joint. However, each method has varying levels of strength, durability, and aesthetic quality. So, depending on your workpiece’s function and other characteristics, you may choose which way works best for you.
That said, keep reading to find out the top-recommended ways to join two pieces at 90 degrees.
1) Miter Joint
Don’t let the unfamiliar name scare you away. ‘Miter’ essential means to finish a workpiece off at an angle, typically 45 degrees. So, a miter joint exists where the ends of two planks of wood are cut at angles and fitted against each other.
You typically see this with decorative picture frames and the corners of some doorway casing. Many woodworkers also use miter joints on window trims.
To create a typical 90-degree miter joint, you’ll cut the ends of the two pieces of wood that you intend to join at opposite 45-degree angles. Then, you fit them together and fasten. However, if you’re installing a doorway trim, you’ll have to first glue, then attach both pieces at the seam to the wall with nails or screws.
While only gluing can help you keep two mitered pieces together, it is advisable that you reinforce the glue with another fastener.
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a 45-degree miter (90 degrees joint):
- The first step is to get the ends of your two workpieces at opposite right angles. In others, one cut goes from the upper right to lower left while the other runs from upper left to lower right.
- To achieve a tight miter joint with no gaps in-between, we recommend using a miter saw for the angular cuts. A miter saw is a power tool designed for the specific purpose of cutting accurate angles. However, ensure you hold each piece firmly against the tool’s fence while cutting to keep it from moving.
- After making the 45-degree cut on the two wood pieces, fit them together, and then apply glue to both edges.
- Next, use a clamp to keep both pieces tightly against each other until the glue dries and the joint is firm.
- Finally, if you need to, use a screw or nail to reinforce the bond.
2) Butt Joint
If you’re looking to join two pieces at a right angle as fast as possible, this may be the joint to explore. The butt joint is arguably the simplest way to make a 90-degree wood joint. So, it’s a skill you certainly want to have in your arsenal.
As the name implies, a butt joint describes a situation where the end of one wood piece ‘butts’ against the other’s side. In other words, there is no attachment between both pieces where they touch. Instead, you’ll need to fasten them with a nail, or similar material, to the lumber frame in the wall.
Common places you can find butt joints are on windows and door trims. Simply look out for where the vertical piece abuts or ‘butts’ into the horizontal trim piece. Of course, this is because the butt joint is one of the best choices for installing trims and baseboards.
Here’s how to create a butt joint:
- Cut both ends of the wood pieces you want to join, making sure to keep their edges square. To achieve this, we recommend using a chop saw as they generally facilitate higher-precision square cuts. Hand saws or circular saws may not be as efficient.
- Next, arrange the pieces at a right angle to each other.
- Then, join them with screws or nails, making sure you secure the joint well. Glue typically doesn’t fare very well here.
- You can also utilize a countersink or putty to keep the nails or screws from loosening over time.
3) Dovetail Joint
Yet another excellent option for joining wood pieces at 90 degrees is the dovetail joint. Indeed, with respect to all-round qualities, the dovetail joint arguably takes the cake. It is very strong, very durable, and aesthetically pleasing.
However, it does take a certain level of skill to pull off a top-notch dovetail joint. Not to worry, we’ll walk you through the basics. This way, with some time and practice, you’ll be pulling dovetail joints out of your hats like a boss!
A dovetail joint involves you cutting a sequence of ‘pins’ and some ‘tails’ onto the two pieces of wood you want to join. This creates a sort of interlocking system for the wood pieces through which you can join them. After fitting them into one another, you can then use some glue to secure them.
However, there is no need for nails or screws with a dovetail joint. So, due to its high tensile strength, you will typically see dovetail joints on cabinets and other similar furniture.
The most distinctive feature of a dovetail joint is how long it lasts. Indeed, a perfectly created dovetail joint should last years, maybe even decades. However, if you’re struggling to make a perfect dovetail joint on your first few tries, we have some good news for you. Due to its unique design, even a messy dovetail joint is usually relatively durable.
4) Mortise and Tenon Joint
Finally, on our list of the best ways to join two pieces of wood at 90 degrees, we have the mortise and Tenon joint. This type of joint is arguably one of the best options in terms of strength and simplicity. Although mortise and tenon joints can work for end-to-end joinery, it is usually best for two pieces of wood that intersect.
Making a mortise and tenon joint involves you creating a mortise hole on one of the wood pieces and a tenon tongue on the other. Both the hole and the tongue are typically rectangular and fit into one another. So, after cutting the required shapes on both wood pieces, all you’d have to do is secure the tenon tongue in its corresponding mortise hole.
Then, you can use wood glue to reinforce the joint.
Depending on where you’re looking from, a mortise and tenon joint may appear to be a butt joint. But, when you look from the inside, where both wood pieces meet, it suddenly becomes much clearer.
By now, you should have several options for creating a 90-degree joint between two pieces of wood. You may choose which method to use depending on the characteristics of each project you have. While there may be no right or wrong answers, some joints are more appropriate in some situations than others. So, take your time to ensure that the type of 90-degree joint that you pick works perfectly for the job at hand.
Do let us know when you try out these different types of joints. We’d love the feedback!
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.