Housing Rant – VIDEO

by | Mar 13, 2015 | 23 comments

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqnhG5d7vX4]


This week I’m ranting on about housing joints and minimal tools. We did run in to some technical difficulties with the sound so it is a bit crackly in places and a bit choppy, so I hope you don’t get lost and I’m sure you’ll forgive us.

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. mike murray

    I was looking at your chisel in the picture. My Ashley Iles butt chisels all came with the brass ferrels as I’m sure your’s did also but, as they sat in the garage in this dry climate, they all started falling off. I found a fix. I put a small piece of painters tape on that portion of the wood where the ferrel sits and then slid the ferrel back up and forced it back in place. So far they are staying in place now.

    • Richard

      Yep, my ferrules came loose very early on and unfortunately I lost them somewhere along the way. When I get around to it I’ve heard that copper pipe will do the job for replacement, and I’ll give the painter’s tape a go, thanks.

  2. Jeffrey Garrett

    Hi Richard,

    It was often the case that as an apprentice, your tools selection was limited to being able to purchase only the essential and most important items to be able to complete a number of tasks. I know when I started my apprenticeship (1970) and was earning £3.17s- 6d per week, the method within your video was not an option, but necessity. You just had not got the funds to have a full tools kit.

    In many ways you were forced to use whatever tools you had to their full advantage. Later on, when you had accumulated more tools you could perhaps have another option.

    One example I recall was not having any electric tools at all… Holes needed in concrete lintols were made with a Rawlplug tool! – Bang, twist, bang, twist, bang, twist!

    Those were the days! 🙂



    • Richard

      Bang, twist, bang, twist… that was character building!
      I completely agree that the simple ways have at times been the only option, and I suppose that’s one of the biggest differences that woodworking as a hobby can bring for many – they can be better equipped than most pros!

  3. allan solomon

    A lot depends on what you are taught and we all seem to take this as gospel. I remember my woodwork teacher in 1968 teaching us how to cut a housing joint. We had to saw across the grain and create a triangle with a chisel not with the grain as you did but across the grain which ended up as a pyramid and then remove the piece in the middle.

    The phrase how many ways are there to skin a rabbit comes to mind.As you say people will find the best way which suits their needs.

    When I started my carpentry and joinery apprenticeship in 1971 1 was taught something completely different. Nice to have options though. Loving your videos.

  4. Paul Chapman

    Excellent video, Richard.

  5. Greg Merritt

    Enjoyed this. The simple approach just about always works and is the best option for those of us who work wood as a hobby. It keeps the tool kit to minimum. The techniques required generally transfer from one operation to the next. So no matter the operation, we are honing our overall skill level.

    Looking forward to the next video.

  6. Mark D

    Hi Richard, great video
    Was wondering what you approach is when say your cutting a housing in a 2ft panel. Would you still use the chisel and mallet, possibly with chisel bevel down to clear away the waste in the middle or paring chisel perhaps, or would you then use a saw, although even with a saw you’d still be left with the problem of clearing the waste in the middle. When making handmade furniture, on big housing joints, I can’t really do without a router plane, just for constancy of depth in the bit thats out of reach for a chisel, would be interesting to know how you do it?

    • Richard

      Hi Mark,
      That’s a very good question and something which could be demonstrated well in a video – I’ll try to get on it in the next few weeks.
      As a quick answer, yep, this can be done with just a chisel, with the bevel down in the hard to reach areas.

  7. thekiltedwoodworker

    I don’t know if you can rightly call these rants, really. You seem rather calm, yah? I think I need more fist shakin’ an veins on the sides of your neck and and and some stuttering, you know? Please try and work some of those into the next one, if you would.

    For now, I think we should call these chats. 🙂

    But this chat was appropriately timed, and I’m grateful you took the time to post it. I was working on a piece just last night with housed joints. Rather simple, really, but when it’s simple, getting things just right is even MORE critical because there isn’t a whole lot for the person to look at, is there? So they see the little gaps and such if you have them. I do, anyway, but I’m also overtly critical of my work.

    Anyway, I got all ready to do the first one, got my board and the feet (for that is what the housed bits are going to be) squared up, and… and then I stopped. It was the first time I’d tried to do a housed joint since I quit using my table saw (I just sold it in January, so no going back! Well… unless I buy another one, I suppose)! Before, I’d just head up to the garage and take a few minutes to fiddle with the miter gauge and use my flat-top blade to cut the housing with a good amount of mechanical precision. I can’t do that anymore!

    So I started thinking about it and remembered (sorry for the “other Englishman” reference) watching Paul Sellers do something similar where he struck the first line and pared a bit away before he set the wood into it to strike the second line using the wood and not a measurement and by that made for a really tight joint. I did that. And it worked!

    It was a fairly narrow board, so I sawed both walls and made my triangles, as you did (though not as easily because the board was hard maple), and then pared it mostly out with the chisel. Then I finished up with the router (71, not corded).

    When I set the legs into place, and the joints were good and tight, taking some light taps with the mallet to fully set them in place, it felt… wow, so great! What a confidence booster to know I can do these things without the power tools and have joinery that is just as good as, if not better.

    (Here is where the “appropriate” bit comes in.)

    But then I started thinking about how I would handle such a joint in casework and cringed at the thought of trying to saw those walls out on much wider boards. It didn’t take much for me to visualize the saw skipping out of that channel and buggering up the board. When I’m faced with that challenge, now I know what method I’ll try.

    But maybe I’ll practice it with a few narrower boards first.

    Sorry this wasn’t as short as Paul’s comment above. He’s a bit more succinct than me, to be sure. But, well, excellent video.



    • Richard

      Great insight and good to hear that you’re joints fitted well – that feeling never wears off. Even now I get a sigh of relief when my joints fit.

  8. DenverGeorge

    I do a lot of housed joints and I learned a couple of things from your video that I bet will make my next set even better and easier. I usually saw my sidewalls with my crosscut panel saw, clean out most of the waste with a chisel and then finish with a router plane. The new things I learned were to pare the shallow notch to establish a track for the saw. The second was to use the chisel to make the waste into a triangle. Will use both these techniques on my next set of housed joints. When I have a long housed joint, I cheat and clamp a piece of scrap to run my saw against. That way I get a straight cut and no jumping out of the track.

    Love these rants of yours. You just keep making hand tools more and more fun.

    • Richard

      Great to hear it Denver. There’s no such thing as cheating in woodwork only getting the job done 😉

  9. fred wheeler

    Love it love it love it. No matter how many years (or weeks) you have been woodworking it is great to share tips and experiences.
    Goes to show we are always learning…
    There are in deed many ways to skin a rabbit… or as we say here in the UK – many ways to skin a rebate 🙂

  10. Thomas Paul Mc Cann

    Just to say I really enjoyed that video. As a self taught woodworker its always fascinating to see how others carry out tasks.

  11. Tommy

    Just grazing, always enjoy tour videos.

  12. Stefan

    Enjoyed that video again.
    Just yesterday I wanted to try both methods while building a small cabinet.
    The saw method failed immediately because I didn’t thought about the groove in the back of the board (for the back panel).
    So I switched to the chisel method and it worked pretty well.


  13. John

    Hi Richard

    Having spent many hours watching Mr Paul Sellars, your “rants” are a ‘bit of rough’ I very much enjoy. Your obvious enthusiasm is a joy to watch……thank you

    Keep up the good work..John

  14. Ilya Gromov

    Richard, I’ve watched hours of Paul Sellers instructions but your explanations both here and in the Wall Cupboard series on housing joints are what actually really clicked and helped me practically… It’s fast and efficient – to the point… So thank you for sharing your experience with us!
    I know you said you do most of your mortising on the machine now but can you do a video on how you were taught to do a mortise?

  15. Andy

    A couple of times during this video I shuddered as I saw you paring with your right hand whilst your left appeared to be directly in front of the chisel’s cutting edge (2:57 & 3:43). I know you’re a skilled woodworker, but accidents do happen. Other than that, excellent video.

  16. Robert

    Where is lumpy? That little hammer does not suite you.

  17. Patrick

    Great video, just curios do you do your mortise and tenon, dovetail joints with a chisel, if so would you show how please would really love to see them,

    • Patrick

      It would be great to see more videos


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