How to Make a Housing Woodwork Joint

Housing joints are very useful in constructing drawers, door frames and partition walls, among other things: but they’re indispensable for fixing shelves neatly into uprights. The joint gets its name because the end of the shelf fits into a square-bottomed channel or housing’ across the upright. A basic housing joint is as simple as that, and very easy to cut and assemble. What’s more, it’s ideal for supporting the weight of a shelf and its contents – it resists twisting, and it looks much more professional than the metal brackets or other fittings which can do the same job.

Such fittings are readily available and often easy to use, but if your design is modern, they’ll tend to spoil its clean lines; and if it’s traditional, they’ll naturally be inappropriate. They will never give the unobtrusive and craftsman-like finish which you can obtain from carefully designed and made housing joints, hand made or through cnc machining. You’ll need a few carpentry tools to make your own housing joints. For instance, there are lenox bandsaw blades for sale that you can purchase for your carpentry work.

woodwork joint How to Make a Housing Woodwork Joint

Making a housing joint

Even with hand tools from PorchedLiving, housing joints are among the easiest to cut. For a basic through housing joint, you don’t need to touch the shelf at all. You just mark out the position of the housing in the upright, cut down the housing sides with a tenon saw, and pare away the waste with a chisel and wooden mallet. The only difficulty, as in all carpentry, is to make sure that your marking, sawing and chiselling are always careful and accurate.

A stopped housing takes a little longer to cut, but only because you need to hollow out its stopped end first, to make sawing easier. You may also need to remove a small notch or ‘shoulder’ from the shelf, which is easily done with a tenon saw and perhaps a chisel too.

For a barefaced housing joint, the housing is cut in the same way as a basic housing. Cutting the rebate in the shelf is another job for tenon saw and chisel.


1 Use your knife and try-square to square a mark across the inner face of the upright where the top of the shelf is to go.

2 Measure up the full shelf thickness with a carpenter’s rule or a flexible tape measure. As always, try for absolute accuracy.

3 Mark this distance on the upright, working down from the first line to give the housing width; square the mark across in pencil only.

4 Place the shelf between the two lines to check them. If necessary, re-draw the second. When that’s right, go over it with knife and try-square.

5 Use a rule to set your marking gauge to 1/3 the thickness of the upright, which is the usual depth of a housing for a strong and rigid joint.

6 With the gauge, mark the housing depth on the upright’s edges. Then use a knife to square the marks for the housing sides to depth across the edges.

7 When cutting the sides to depth, cramp on a batten to prevent the saw from wandering sideways.

8 Remove the waste with a chisel, working from both ends on long housings. Pare along the sides if necessary to clean them up.

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