Rocking Chair: An Online Course #15: Loose Tenons: Festool Domino or Mortising JiGs

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Blog entry by HappyHowie posted 04-03-2016 07:11 AM 7113 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 14: Twin-Blade Joinery Part 15 of Rocking Chair: An Online Course series Part 16: Guido Henn - Holzwerken »

While viewing the rocking chair instruction, Tom McLaughlin stated that he used a three-slot router bit to make his mortises on the chair’s back legs and the corresponding rockers and crest rail. That method was used for his first rocking chair. However, when he went to Tommy Mac’s Rough Cut show they used instead Tommy Mac’s Festool Domino mortising machine. They cut the mortises with his machine and then placed Festool’s loose tenons in them. Festool calls these compressed wood pieces Dominos. If you already own a Festool Domino machine like Tommy Mac, then why not use it? The large Domino Xl costs about $1,400 before taxes. It is probably worth it if you have the cash to spend. I have other priorities. I intend to buy a Saw Stop cabinet table saw before any Festool equipment.

In the class instruction Tom McLaughlin stated that he had borrowed Tommy Mac’s Domino machine. Tom demonstrated how to cut the mortises with the Domino mortiser. These mortises were on the back legs where the rockers where attached and the crest rail fastened to the top of the back legs.

My biggest concern was making the double mortises in the leg’s end grain. Tom demonstrated for me how he used in router with a 3-slot bit to cut the first mortises in his first rocker build. I had asked that question because as I explained I did not intend to buy a Domino machine; instead I would use my Bosch plunge router to make those mortises.

Tom was kind enough to explain how to use a 3-cutter slot router bit. However, I doubt that my inexperience would give me as good a result as I would need.

Therefore, I began to look for better solutions for myself. What I decided to make for my shop was actually two router based mortising JIGs. I decided to follow two plans that I found on the Internet.


The first JIG was a Woodsmith Shop Notes plan that I can clamp to my workbench and use my Bosch plunge router with an upcut router bit sized for the mortises I would be cutting. With this JIG I could easily cut mortises in aprons and rails by holding them horizontally in the JIG’s clamps. I could also reposition the JIG so I could cut mortising by holding the rocker’s legs vertically.

The image below is from Woodsmith’s web site for their mortising jig plan.

I nearly have my plunge router mortising JIG completed. I have the stops to add as well as the toggle clamps. I am planning to make a mounting block for my self-adjusting toggle clamp. I will bolt the toggle clamp to this block and then have a way to fasten that block to the front fence of the mortising JIG by screwing it down tightly with 1/4” -20 bolt stubbed knobs.

My nearly completed plunge router mortising JIG is shown in the image below.


The other JIG I am building is a slot mortiser that I found in a Fine Woodworking article authored by Gregory Paolini. He also demonstrates an updated mortiser on YouTube. You can view that video by clicking here.

Gregory Paolini authored a Fine Woodworking Magazine article back in 2007 of this slot mortiser. That article had most of the part dimensions shown in a diagram. To view that article you may need to have an online membership. The magazine does offer a free 14-day trial.

In this photo you will see some of the parts I have milled and glued together for my slot mortiser. This photo has a mixed view of the slot mortiser parts as well as the plunge router mortising JIG parts. This photo was taken before I completed that JIG.

I went to my local Woodcraft store to buy the T-track and Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) sheet. I noticed on Greg’s web site that he also made a couple extra clamping blocks. So I have glued and cut new blocks from my MDF scrap pile. I will drill and route a couple of slots in these blocks so I can fasten them down to my T-track and then use the blocks either as stops or add a clamp or toggle clamps to hold my lumber for mortising.


-- --- Happy Howie

3 comments so far

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1615 posts in 4609 days

#1 posted 04-03-2016 03:12 PM

Good call in all ways. SawStop and the router you already own. No need for big ticket fancy schmancy tools from Festool. I cringe whenever I hear people succumb to the marketing and drop $1,400 on a tool that only does one thing, yes really well, but still. I’ve got a $140 BeadLock Pro that does just about the same thing with a drill I already own and that’s 10%. I can buy a lot of QSWO for $1300! BTW, I lost a finger my table saw, so safety is super important to me.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View HappyHowie's profile


485 posts in 2995 days

#2 posted 04-03-2016 06:23 PM

Ouch, for the lost finger.

The 10th will be the first anniversary of my table saw accident. I was lucky for such a foolish move on my part. I decided to move an offcut small piece with my left hand. There was no particular reason to do this; especially since I do not have depth perception. I felt compelled to do it. The devil made me do it.

I touched the moving blade with two fingers; my index and middle finger were cut through the nails. It did not hurt, at first. I was afraid I had damaged the bone tips. When I brought my hand up to look at the damage, the fingers were covered in my blood so I stuck them into my mouth to clean it. Later I learned I just cut the fleshy parts and the tips of my fingernails; no bones… lucky…

I believe the emergency room doctor did a good job of stitching me up. There were only one or two pieces he had to toss away. This incident was fateful in that it got me referred to a great hand doctor for a follow-up from the emergency room. That surgeon helped me with my carpal tunnel. Prior to that appointment no other hand surgeon would touch my carpal tunnel issues. I’m always looking for silver linings…

It actually healed up well so without close inspections the fingers look normal. The touch and feelings on the tips will never be the same. I am lucky for my stupid move.

My wife Ann is the one that went into shock. I had to coach her while driving me to the emergency room. She wanted me to buy a Saw Stop right away before I ever used that table saw again. It really was not the saw’s fault. It was mine. I have to pay every bill, though, so I have been saving for the Saw Stop ever since. I have enough in my savings account now to buy their 3 hp pro cabinet model. However, I will wait a couple weeks to finish a family trip and to see if any unforeseen emergency pops up. My woodshop is in my 3-car garage so everything, I believe, should be mobile. I want the industrial mobile stand instead of the integrated mobile stand so their semi-annual sale for a free mobile stand or the overhead dust collector does not interest me. That removes the end of April deadline for me to make the purchase right away.

My contractor Porter Cable table saw is worth more to me or a family member than for which I could resell it. I will see if a son or a son-in-law would want to take it as a gift. They just need to be careful from making a stupid move like me. All of my table saw JIGs will go with the saw. There may be two dozen jigs I made for this saw. Oh well, they helped me and they will still help the new owner. Giving these jigs away will pretty much clean my north wall where I hang my jigs. I can start new with a new Saw Stop table saw…

I do believe the plunge router mortising jig or the slot mortiser will make the dual end grain mortises just fine for the rocking chair I am building. I will practice on scrap pieces of wood to make sure I can do the job right every time before I work on the rocking chair’s leg end grain where it fastens to the rockers and the crest rail.

-- --- Happy Howie

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485 posts in 2995 days

#3 posted 04-03-2016 07:45 PM

This is my north wall where I store or hang my jigs.

-- --- Happy Howie

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