Great Mortiser - Wow, makes square holes!

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Review by Terry Burks posted 02-06-2011 12:23 AM 15513 views 4 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Great Mortiser - Wow, makes square holes! Great Mortiser - Wow, makes square holes! Great Mortiser - Wow, makes square holes! Click the pictures to enlarge them

After recently completing a project that required creating more than 20 mortises using a drill press and chisels, I decided it was time to seriously consider getting a bench top mortiser. After reading a number of reviews online, I visited my local Woodcraft store and looked at the Jet, Delta and Shop Fox models they had on display. Based on what I saw, discussions with the salesman, features and price, I decided that the Delta was the best they had. I was told that upcoming sales would bring the price down to about $250. I was not terribly impressed with the finish or quality of casting on any of these but the Delta was the best of the three.

I then visited Sears and looked over their offering and was pleasantly surprised at the quality, heft and finish of the unit. The online reviews by owners were all quite good as well. Craftsman is not my first choice in tool brands but I do have a Craftsman jobsite table saw that I have been very pleased with over the last 6 years.

With an online sale coupled with my Craftsman Club discount, the units retail price of $299. was brought down to $242. I ordered the unit online with pickup arranged at my local Sears store. It arrived within about 3 days of my order. The box was compact but weighed about 75 pounds. All components were well packed in styrofoam and wrapped in plastic. All parts were present and there was no damage out of the box.

All metal surfaces were coated in a light oil, obviously to prevent rusting during its’ overseas trip as the unit is manufactured in China. It was a bit messy cleaning off all of the oil but in retrospect a better option than having rusted parts.

My first take on the unit was that it was well built. The castings were clean and solid and the machined base was flat and smooth. The instruction manual was very well written and assembly instructions and photos were clear and easy to follow. The only annoying step in the assembly process was the requirement to attach the lift assist piston to the head/shaft assembly only to be instructed to disconnect it when the shaft is bolted to the base. I know this is done as a safety precaution to keep the motor/head assembly from crashing down on your hand as you lift it upright but a simple warning would have sufficed.

Assembly and setup took approx 60 minutes, not bad considering it was done in a garage at 10 o’clock at night in about 30 degree weather. I couldn’t wait to get it together and give it a try. The unit came with all tools needed for assembly/adjustments except for a wrench required to bolt the shaft/head unit to the base. Also included are 4 bits/chisels sized 1/2, 3/8, 5/16 & 1/4 inch as well as a 2 1/4 inch riser for increased capacity. The head unit may also be mounted to the base 180 degrees from normal to perform mortising of very large items.

Mounting the chisel/bits was easy as was squaring the chisel to the fence. My first mortises were in poplar and red oak and they cut cleanly with the red oak taking only slightly more effort than the poplar. I found the bits/chisels to be sharp out of the box and without any visible defects or burrs. I was very pleased with the cleanliness of the mortises they created.

One feature I really like is the fact the handle used to raise/lower the head is spring loaded and can be easily adjusted to allow for the greatest leverage and best position. This made it easy to get the leverage needed to drive through the wood. I have read some reviews of different mortisers where the reviewer complained of the effort required. I didn’t find this to be a problem, but then again, we’re men after all and that’s why God gave us some muscle. I gotta tell you the 30 seconds required to create a clean square mortise sure beats the 5 – 10 minutes required using a drill press and chisels. I look forward to the next project where many mortises are required.

-- Terry - Montgomery, Texas

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Terry Burks

22 posts in 3862 days

11 comments so far

View ellen35's profile


2749 posts in 4242 days

#1 posted 02-06-2011 01:13 AM

Excellent review! Thank you for being so thorough and complete.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

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Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3666 days

#2 posted 02-06-2011 01:28 AM

Great Review.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View JerryBerry's profile


64 posts in 3502 days

#3 posted 02-06-2011 01:30 AM

Very nice review. I appreciate it!

-- - Tell me what you want done, OR how to do it. Never both!!!! Jerry, New Bloomfield, PA

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4920 posts in 3858 days

#4 posted 02-06-2011 02:17 AM

Thank you for this excellent review

-- Bert

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Terry Burks

22 posts in 3862 days

#5 posted 02-06-2011 02:31 AM

Thanks to all for the comments. Deke, my workshop is actually a 2 car garage where I park 2 vehicles every night so all my tools have to be stowed away and portable. The base you see the mortiser on is actually a Husky X Horse folding saw horse. I bought this about a year ago and have been greatly pleased. It folds flat and stores easily. It claims to support up to 750 lbs but I’ve probably never put more than about a 100 lbs on it and it is incredibly stable. I should probably do a separate review on this item as I love it and will probably buy a 2nd. It’s been used as a temporary stand for my planer, CMS, benchtop drill press, and ridgid belt/spindle sander at times. They cost $29. at Home Depot and are worth every penny.

-- Terry - Montgomery, Texas

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Todd Thomas

4969 posts in 4258 days

#6 posted 02-06-2011 01:19 PM

thanks for the review…I have been looking at getting one and your review may have me look at the craftsman….thank again.

-- Todd, Oak Ridge, TN, Hello my name is Todd and I'm a Toolholic, I bought my last tool 10 days, no 4 days, oh heck I bought a tool on the way here! †

View Florida_Jim's profile


83 posts in 3687 days

#7 posted 02-06-2011 04:02 PM

I’ve had this mortiser for a few years now. Your review was great.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 3494 days

#8 posted 02-06-2011 10:23 PM

terry it sounds like the Craftsman is very similar on all counts to the Delta (no surprise there since I think they all come from the same factory). If you find yourself using it a lot (and I think you will), I would suggest a bigger bench that would allow you to clamp pieces of scrap 2×4s ripped to the exact height of the mortiser’s table but placed a foot or more away on each side. I have found that with only two hands, supporting the workpiece on that little table while operating the handle is frustrating. so the “props” make it much easier.

View TechRedneck's profile


770 posts in 3666 days

#9 posted 02-06-2011 10:24 PM

I’ve had this machine for about two years. Don’t use it a lot but it is there when I need it, did not cost a lot, works every time and the chisels are still sharp. I use a lot of oak.

I agree that Craftsman is not always top of the line, however don’t dismiss a tool like this that is solid, works great yet costs less (when you get them on sale). I would have to drive a couple hours to get to the nearest WoodCraft store. Delivery charges for larger and heaver machines are expensive and you have to be there waiting for delivery. With Sears, you can order on line and pick it up on your time schedule.

When I stopped at WoodCraft I had a look at the others and to be honest… The Craftsman is just as good or better and costs less.

Let’s face it, most of us are weekend woodworkers. We would all love to get the best machines and tools that money can buy, however sometimes we have to do a cost/benefit analysis. Some Sears tools are just crap and some are fairly solid and reliable. Most of the larger machines will work great with a little time and effort to tune them up properly. I have a Craftsman table saw and jointer and replaced the stock belts with link belts and swapped out the stock blades with better ones. When the chisels can no longer be sharpened on the mortiser, I’ll replace them with top of the line ones.

-- Mike.... West Virginia. "Man is a tool using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.". T Carlyle

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98 posts in 3501 days

#10 posted 02-06-2011 11:32 PM

Really great reviews. Thank you for the time and effort in giving us some really good information.

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Terry Burks

22 posts in 3862 days

#11 posted 02-07-2011 06:04 PM

TechRedneck, I couldn’t agree more. The Craftsman tools I have chosen carefully have proven to be dependable and very functional tools. Other times I have totally passed on Craftsman options because they were obviously not up to my standards. I have a mix of brands in my shop and I have not found a single brand where I would be happy to choose all of my tools from their line. That’s why research is so important. I consider user reviews to be my best resource when evaluating a tool purchase. Again thanks for all of your feedback.

-- Terry - Montgomery, Texas

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