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    Butt Joint Basics

    The butt joint is the humblest of joints, with an equally humble name that comes from the fact that it is simply two boards butted together. Unlike a dovetail or mortise-and-tenon joint, it has no inherent strength, and in most cases you can’t just glue it and hope for the best. At least one part of the joint is usually the end of a board, and glue does not hold well on end grain. The main exception to that is when you glue two boards together side by side to make a wider panel.

    Butt joints like this, where the boards are edge-to-edge, are stronger than the wood itself! But you need plenty of clamping pressure. 3/4-in. pipe clamps are cheap and effective. By the way, the C-clamps at the end of the panel are there only to keep the boards aligned. Photo: Tom Begnal

    In that case, the joint will be long grain to long grain, and if you use glue and apply enough clamping pressure, that joint will be stronger than the wood itself. Another exception is when you glue a face frame to the front of a cabinet box.

    But in every other case, you need to add something to a butt joint to make it strong enough: screws, pocket screws, or biscuits.

    Biscuit Joint

    Biscuits are a fast, invisible way to reinforce butt joints. Drawing by John Tetreault

    But all of those gizmos are quick and easy to install. In fact, that’s how lots of built-in cabinets go together.