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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Having been sidetracked making Halloween decorations, I'm now getting ready to start making a couple of outdoor side tables that I mentioned in a prior post (questioning how to finish. Got good advice.) Anyway, I have made mortise and tenon joints, just finished a night table using them (pics attached) but I don't have any special jigs or fixtures so between my bandsaw, table saw, drill press and chisel I manage to get it done but, for me, it's a time consuming process. In looking for a relatively quick and inexpensive system I came across the Rockler beadlock system. For about $75 I can get the 1/4 jig, spacers and beadlock stock. In the future I would probably buy the router bit to make my own stock but for this project it would just be one more step in the process that can be eliminated. And, at this point, since my daily shop time is limited due to back surgery earlier this year, I want to spend my time making the tables rather than trying to create my own jigs. I do have plenty of shop made jigs but none for M&T's.

To the point. Sorry it took so long to get here, I've looked through prior postings on the forum and seen mixed reviews going back over 15 years. For anyone who has used this system, my question is, does it create a strong, solid joint that, assuming I use the jig properly, will hold up in an outdoor setting? BTW, I'm in Florida. If the answer is no, is there a better system without getting very expensive? Thanks.

Edit: My mistake in pricing. It would be about $125.
 

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I have the beadlock system. Easy to use because you're cutting two mortises and inserting the beadlock pieces into the slots. Good glue makes a really solid joint. Fast and easy and really strong with the 3/8ths or half inch. Of course the size you choose depends on the thickness of your workpiece. Obviously if your workpiece is not that thick, you'll use the quarter inch. The 3/8ths is a good compromise, and is what I use. The best part is measuring and marking up the location is really easy with their jig and drill block setup. Don't scrimp on glue.

You can buy a beadlock making bit if you want to use some really high quality wood for the beads. I'm old and a little beat up myself, so I like this system. Don't have that much time or energy to futz with M&T these days. Just want to get stuff done.
 

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Unless you are building really "fine furniture" I would say to make them with pocket holes. Something like what you have pictured could be done very very quickly and the weather would have no impact on it. No one could tell the difference by looking at it.
 

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I had a project that had to be shipped to California and it was quite large, so very expensive to ship fully assembled. My daughter was on the receiving end. She had a hand held electric drill and some hand tools, but little else in the way of woodworking tools. So I built the project using mortise and tenon joints (I have an FMT Pro) and I dry assembled the project to be certain that everything fit. Then I finished all of the pieces with stain and polyurethane, being careful to mask the surfaces that needed gluing. I included a bottle of glue and poly rope to use as clamps for assembly. When it arrived, she assembled and glued it up successfully.

But then she wanted another section added onto the original. So I made up the pieces for this new section the same way, but joining this to the "already assembled and glued piece" became a bit of a problem, since the original piece was going to need some mortise joints added to it.

I ended up including a C-clamp, an original Beadlock jig, a 3/8" drill bit and some already cut-to-length 3/8" Beadlock tenons in the second kit that I sent to her. She was able to add the Beadlock mortises herself to the original piece, and then assemble and add this new section to what she had already assembled, by following the Beadlock directions and using her hand held electric drill, along with the assembly instructions provided by me, and she did it with no problems at all (at least none that couldn't easily be answered by a phone call).

The advantage of Beadlock Jig is that you only need a clamp to hold the jig in place and a powered hand drill to make good joinery with it, and you can even use it to add to already assembled and glued project 3,400 miles away, like my daughter and I did. Or it can be used in shops that don't have the tools usually necessary for mortise and tenon work.

If you are a woodworker who would like to do projects that require mortise and tenon work, and you don't have the equipment usually needed to create them, a Beadlock jig just might be what you need. Once you get good at making tenons another way, like with your table saw, a Beadlock jig can still be used to help create the mortises accurately, since a chisel and mallet can be then used to flatten the sides of the Beadlock mortise very easily after the Beadlock process positions and drills the overlapping holes for the mortise. The jig will help you grow into mortise and tenon work easily, and without the additional machine tools necessary to do mortise and tenon work the usual way.

Charley
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for all of your responses. Based on what you said I'm going to go with the Beadlock system. The side tables that I'll make will be similar to the one in the picture. For the top, I was going to use biscuits to make the frame but with the Beadlock the joints will be stronger. I'll cut grooves to hold the tenons on the slats and screw the slats in from the bottom with stainless steel screws to account for the sun and humidity in Florida. I'll separate the slats with popsicle sticks to provide room for movement and to let any water drain from the top. Being Florida, we don't sit outside much June - Sept which is the bulk of the rainy season so I'll take them inside. The rest of the year they'll live outside.

After the tables, I'll probably make a plant stand to replace the quick one I made a couple of years ago.. I used pocket screws in Cedar that I got at Lowes and it hasn't held up well. Partly because I didn't finish it properly. Hopefully, I'm not too old to learn and will do it right this time.

Thanks again.
 

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You need to learn about wood swelling and shrinking in width with changes in humidity and Weather. Wood changes in width when it gets wet and shrinks back in width as it dries. If you don't take this into account and provide for this in your design, making something very strong and rigid will lead to a disaster. Before you tackle this project, learn how to design the project to allow for this. If you don't, you will be feeding it to a fire in less than a year. Learn how to make projects that allow for this wood movement in the design and then make your table. Do the design right and the table will be inherited, and still in good condition.

Charley
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You need to learn about wood swelling and shrinking in width with changes in humidity and Weather. Wood changes in width when it gets wet and shrinks back in width as it dries. If you don't take this into account and provide for this in your design, making something very strong and rigid will lead to a disaster. Before you tackle this project, learn how to design the project to allow for this. If you don't, you will be feeding it to a fire in less than a year. Learn how to make projects that allow for this wood movement in the design and then make your table. Do the design right and the table will be inherited, and still in good condition.

Charley
Thanks for the post Charley. I am aware of wood movement and do plan for it in my projects. If anything, I over engineer it. For example, I just finished a small night table. I attached the top to the sides with shop made buttons as you can see in the attached pics. Considering the small size, I probably could have just screwed and glued with no problem but I tend to be overcautious.

For the outdoor side tables, due to the extremes they will face, I will build in breathing room. The slats will have tenons on each end that will fit into grooves in the side. I'll drive a stainless steel screw up through the bottom into the center of the tenon into the side, or frame as I call it, so that the wood can expand in the tangential direction. I'll put spaces between the 1 1/4" slats to allow room for expansion. Although I know I can't prevent movement, I'm going to pre-finish everything with many coats of spar varnish which should help somewhat with the moisture.
 

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