What Do You Do With Your Tenon Cheeks?

Probably the best method I know for fixing a loose tenon is to glue the cheek back in place. This is one of the nice things about hand sawing tenons: you don’t turn your waste material into saw dust. Instead you have a small piece of stock left over that is very useful. Because of this I have gotten into the habit of keeping my sawn cheeks around during a build. A little paring or planing to flatten the faces and you and fatten up a tenon quickly for a tight fit, or start over again and saw it agin. Fortunately, as my sawing has improved over the years, I do less and less fixing and usually some light paring is the only adjustment I need to fit my mortise and tenon joints. The habit remains still and I usually end up with a stack of tenon cheeks once I’m finished with my joinery. What to do with this stock?

Teak Maple Tenon CheeksSometimes I keep it and throw it in a drawer where I go for wedge or shim material. Hand Tool School members have often referred to this as my “magic drawer” as it seems I always have a near perfect piece in there just when I need it. It is always a massive time saver when I don’t have to cut down a larger board when I’m looking for a 1/4″ wedge for a tenon. Grab a piece close to your finished size and pare in a wedge shape with a chisel.
Sometimes I use this stock to make pegs. Just rive out a strip from the tenon cheek and pound it through a dowel plate and you have a peg in seconds. You also can thread that peg and you have a useful item for shop made tools like marking gauges.

I just finished cutting and fitting 12 mortise and tenon joints on my latest pole lathe and I’m left with this deck of cards of Maple and Teak. Anybody have some useful things they do with leftover tenon cheeks? Please leave a comment below and share it.

9 Responses to “What Do You Do With Your Tenon Cheeks?”

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  1. Jay Bates says:

    Hey Shannon,

    I do not hand cut tenons so I can’t speak for cheek scraps but I do have a lot of similar sized hardwood scraps. What I have done in the past regarding scraps this size is laminate them together and make rectangular salt and pepper shakers out of them. I imagine there could be some pretty interesting projects made from turning some of these laminated blanks as well.

    And for the record…you’re not a hoarder in my book by saving these. Resourceful would be a better term.

    – Jay

  2. Ethan says:

    Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl…


    1. I know a few guys that start off almost every shop session by quickly making a dovetail joint, I guess as a way of “warming up” before they start in on a project. That looks like lots of scrap for practicing dovetails. Really thin dovetails.

    2. Several boxes I’ve made in the past have had a small background field inlaid in the lid and then I’ve inlaid something like a cabochon or medallion in the middle of that field. It helps to set off the focal point inlay a little better. I could see using those pieces for such a thing.

    3. Finish test pieces?

  3. Stan P. says:

    An idea I have have been thinking about for small pieces of wood that is to make small boxes, fill them with the individually wrapped Ghirardelli Chocolates and give them as Christmas gifts.

  4. Bryan Robinson says:

    I use mine for setting up plane blades and saw practice.
    Also for shims.

  5. Tico Vogt says:

    Business cards.

  6. Rick says:

    Chessboard. Duh!

  7. Paul says:

    They make great door stops.

  8. Todd Rudolph says:

    I use them to make small stands for my iPhone or iPad so I can have it propped up on my bench and watch movies in my shop. Even though I am trying to become a all hand tool woodworker my electronic devices are a necessary tool connecting me to other like minded traditional woodworkers.

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