Learning a number of different joints will give you a number of options when you come across different woodworking challenges.
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Shiplap Edge Joints Shiplap joints are formed by cutting identical rabbets into opposite faces of adjoining boards. This produces a joint where the rabbets overlap, preventing gaps between the boards from being visible. Shiplap joints are often referred to as a poor-man's tongue-and-groove since the visual effect is very similar to tongue-and-groove, however less work is involved.
The tongue and groove joints offer a means of registering the joint edges during assembly. They are often used without any glue, allowing the boards to expand and contract without any negative effects. As long as the contraction of the board is less than the length of the tongue, the joint will not be exposed, and the panel will retain its intended appearance.
Butt frame joints are formed by simply butting the end of one board against the edge of another board. The contact is entirely end grain to long grain with no mechanical interlocking. This situation forms a relatively weak joint.
Contemporary frame-and-panel construction involves detailing the inner edges of the stiles and rails with decorative profiles (shappings), along with a slot cut beneath the profile to accommodate the floating panel. The traditional method of joining the rails to the stiles was to use a stuck mortise-and-tenon joint, however modern production requires a less time-consuming, more economical joint.
Miter joints are beautiful to behold when properly constructed. There is no visible end grain, and the seam where the two boards are joined produces a gentle change in grain direction that can be very pleasing.
Extremely easy to form, lap joints also have the benefit of being extremely strong. By notching one board and placing it another board within the space, the walls of the notch prevents the other board from twisting free. Also, the gluing surface is entirely long grain to long grain, producing a very strong bonding surface to complement the mechanical interlocking of the joint.
Mortise-And-Tenon joints are an extremely old construction technique that has stood the test of time and is still being used today. Examples of this ancient joint is found in Egyptian furniture thousands of years old. It can produce joints that are extremely strong, and the technique can be scaled up or down in size with great success.
What’s the best joinery method for cabinet face frames? That may seem like an simple question, but actually it’s a hotly debated topic among professional cabinetmakers, who have an equal interest in making a product with solid joints and getting cabinets out the door fast. For the hobbyist, who has much more freedom to experiment, it's a slightly different story. If your livelihood doesn't depend on getting things done as fast as possible, then the choice really depends on the conditions the cabinets will have to face, skill level, the equipment you have available, the amount of time you want to devote to a given project, and your particular conception of the term “quality workmanship”.