finger joint in woodwork kitchen worktop

What is a finger joint in woodwork?

Whether you work in woodwork, as a tradesperson, in construction, or even if you’re a keen DIYer, you will often come across different types of joints in woodwork and may wonder what the differences are. Today we are going to take a look at exactly what a finger joint is and how it is used in wood panels to make them extremely strong and durable.

finger joint in woodwork
Finger joints look like interlocked fingers!

What is a finger joint?

A finger joint, also known as a comb joint, is a common type of structural joint that connects two pieces of wood together. They are used in a variety of projects, from furniture to home decor, but are most often used to create large wood panels that are stable and robust. We have solid oak worktops in our kitchen which have been manufactured using this jointing method. The finger joint is only visible from the side, not on top.

finger joint worktop oak

Finger joints are created by cutting a series of interlocking ‘finger’ slots in each piece of wood and inserting them together. Imagine interlocking your fingers together and you’ll see why they are called finger joints, as they look quite similar!

They create extra surface area for bonding to give more strength to wood panels

What are the benefits of finger jointed wood panels?

As mentioned, this style of joint is often used to create long wood panels which can be used for a variety of purposes in home construction and interiors.  A finger jointed panel is often used for interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and floors. They are also used in furniture and other woodworking projects.  You will often notice real wood worktops, such as oak worktops, with this type of join. If you look closely at the pieces of wood within a solid kitchen wood worktop you will likely see they are made with finger jointed panels.

Finger joints are one of the most common types of joints used in woodworking, because of their simplicity and the fact that router bit sets for finger joints are readily and widely available. They are a strong and simple joint, with the ‘fingers’ providing support for the boards when they are assembled and glued together.  By creating a series of ‘fingers’ to interlock and glue together, there are more sides, therefore the surface area available to glue is larger, making the bond stronger. 

They are strong, reliable, easy to make and offer a wide variety of angles for the fingers to be cut at. This means that you can create a custom fit for any panel you need to make. Other benefits to using finger joints for your project include durability and cost-effectiveness.

Finger jointed wood panels are an excellent option for people who want to install wood panelling in their homes. They are easy to install and can be done by any homeowner with some basic knowledge of how to work with tools.

This type of join can also be used decoratively, such as with contrasting colours of wood to create a striking pattern:

Dirk Bartens, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The downsides of finger joints

While finger joints are a popular and effective woodworking technique, it is important to note that they do have some potential downsides that should be considered before using them in a project. One potential issue with finger joints is that they can be difficult to sand or plane. This is because the joint is made up of a series of interlocking fingers, which can make it challenging to get a smooth, even surface. This may be less of an issue with larger projects, but for smaller items or those that require a very smooth finish, finger joints may not be the best choice.

Another potential downside of finger joints is that they may not be suitable for projects that require a seamless, uniform appearance. While finger joints can create a strong and durable joint, the interlocking fingers can also create a visible seam or line where the pieces of wood meet. This can be undesirable for certain projects, such as those that require a continuous, unbroken surface or those with a highly decorative finish. In these cases, other joint types, such as a mortise and tenon joint or a dovetail joint, may be a better option.

It is also worth noting that finger joints may not be suitable for every type of wood. Some types of wood may be more prone to splitting or cracking when cut into the interlocking finger shapes, which can compromise the strength of the joint. It is important to choose the right type of wood for your project and to carefully consider the pros and cons of using finger joints versus other joint types.

How to create your own finger joint

If you’re looking to create your own panels, extended boards or are just simply looking to create a unique join in your next woodworking project then you’ll need a few specific tools for the job.

A router table or bench

Router tables come in a few different forms, including worktop-mounted, floor standing and portable. Many craftsmen also like to make custom router tables for their workshops as it provides a customised size and fit for specific spaces.

Floor mounted router table

Trend WRT Router Table
Trend WRT Router Table

Bench mounted router table

ToolTronix Bench router table
ToolTronix Bench router table

DIY router table accessories

Router table insert plate

Router table insert plate

Finger joint router bits

Once you’ve got a suitable router table, the next piece of equipment you’ll need is the correct bits to achieve a finger joint. Finger joints can be created in a number of ways with a number of different bits so the overall design and style you want to achieve is up to you. Here are a couple of examples:

boarder finger joint router bit

Boarder finger joint router bit

Yonico finger joint router bit

Yonico finger joint router bit

Final word

In conclusion, while finger joints are a useful and versatile woodworking technique, they do have some potential downsides that should be considered before using them in a project. By weighing the benefits and drawbacks of finger joints, you can make an informed decision about whether they are the right choice for your woodworking project.

Hopefully, with this article and imagery, you now know what a finger joint consists of. Finger jointing is a woodworking technique used to join boards end to end with interlocking ‘fingers’. It is a quick and easy way to make long, strong pieces of wood.

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