beadLOCK Loose Tenon Joinery System

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       When I get a new product to review, I try to do it somewhat systematically. First I look at the packaging and try to get a first impression. Then I look at and read carefully the instructions. Then I rush to the shop and try it out. That isn’t all that scientific is it?
   Now to the latest tool — the beadLOCK Loose Tenon Joinery System. It’s a winner.  It is simple, the instructions are simple but ample — and it works. I don’t need to take any more space to say just that.
   I have two complaints. First, the name — the beadLOCK system makes a loose tenon joint but it is the tightest tenon you could ever make. More on that in a second. Secondly, the instructions fail to mention that the "witness mark" you draw across your joint should be where you want the center of the tenon to be — small point. OK – sue me.

   You are right! If that is all the beef I can come up with, it must work well. It does. Extremely well!!! The instructions tell the story pretty well, but I found that there are a few things that will improve your success with the beadLOCK system. Read on!

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     Now let me show you the step-by-step. But before I do, let me go back to the name. The term "loose tenon" was created ages ago to signify that the tenon is not a part of one of the members but a loose component like a dowel would be. So if you can keep that in mind, good,  because the joint that the beadLOCK system gives is far from loose. It is very precision and snug. It is not so tight that you would squeeze out any glue you applied, but it is "glove-tight"…a lot of good gluing surface here.

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   The instruction sheet is brief but details the process quite well. Be sure to read all the parts. There are "Tips for Best Results" and "Safety Guidelines" that are both very important.

   I started by placing the two components flat on my bench and marking where I want the tenon to be. You can see that I use the actual tenon stock on which I have marked the center point. I extend that mark onto the stile. To me, that is quicker and more fool proof than measuring.

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      I then use a square to extend the mark across both pieces. This line should be as thin as possible. A good pencil sharpener will make for a better joint.

Next, you place the beadLOCK jig on one of the components and line up the flat side of the window with the pencil mark. In the broad sunlight this is easy. In some areas of my shop, the shadow of the jig can make lining up the pencil mark difficult...and the accuracy of the joint will be affected.

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   Here are two views. The left view shows the product as it is is made. The right view is after I filed a bevel on the left hand edge of the window. With this new edge, you can accurately line up on the pencil mark. It is worth doing.

   It took all of 8 minutes to file the edge. Be sure to keep file at 45 and not to go beyond the bottom edge. This minor alteration will greatly improve the accuracy of the joints.

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   While holding the aligned jig and stile, I clamped them in my workbench vise. You can use a clamp to hold the two together, but the bench vise was much more practical for me.

   The two knobs are used to loosen the drill guide block. It has two positions. I start with it in the right-hand or "A" position. Tightening these two knobs before drilling is very important.

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   Now it is a simple matter of drilling in the three holes that are visible. You can see that I have placed a masking tape "depth stop." In this instance, I was drilling to 1".  The instructions specify a standard twist drill.

   With the holes drilled in the "A" position, I loosen the knobs and move the guide to the "B" position. Now two guide holes are visible.

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   And now I drilled the two holes. Since  these are "overlapping" from the earlier holes drilled, the instructions warn to use a slow feed rate. That is very important.

   I also used both a battery powered drill and a standard electric drill — the latter having faster speeds. In most hardwoods, the higher speed produced a smoother, more "milled" cut and is my preferred way now.

   The instructions suggest that you move the block back to position "A" and drill once again. This is to make a cleaner mortise and help clear out the drillings. I did it both ways and quickly came to the same conclusion. It takes but a second and finishes the mortise very nicely.

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This composite view might help. At the left, the upper view is the block at the "A" position. The lower view, the "B" position. The overlap of these two blocks gives you the final mortise shown at right.

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