Mortiser Falls Short on Key Features

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Review by pintodeluxe posted 10-29-2011 01:21 AM 6897 views 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Mortiser Falls Short on Key Features No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

When I first got this it was the best thing since fancy cut pickles. Since then (5 tables, 8 chairs and and an entertainment center later), I have had the chisel stuck in my workpiece more times than I can count. I can tell you why… it has no roller wheels or clamps to hold the workpiece tight against the fence. Thus when you try to remove the bit, it rocks the workpiece and binds the bit.

Problem #2 : The hold down clamp rod does flex quite a bit. I think this could be solved with roller wheels mentioned above.

Problem#3 : Poor quality castings of the hub and handle gear assembly. I specifically bought this because it was made in China. That’s where all the qulity pot metal comes from right?
This assembly broke on me twice. $50-60 in parts each time.

Problem #4 : Power switch failed. More parts to buy.

Problem # 5 : Plastic knobs stripped out. More parts.

Problem #6 : You can only fit a 4-1/4” wide board under the 1/2” chisel. Riser block is a joke. If Delta had made the head assembly a couple inches taller, I could mortise a 6” wide board.

The following problems are common to all mortisers I have seen…
Problem #7 : No squaring index on the bit!!! Unbelievable. My electric toothbrush has that feature.
Are you listening Delta, Jet, Powermatic, Steel City? We want self squaring bits! Were not frickin’ cutting diamonds here, we are cutting squares!

Problem #8 : The bit holder faces the bits business-end up. This is dangerous, and it should come with caps or a folding lid.

Problem #9 : Not much stock support. It looks like the Steel City / Woodriver mortiser has solved that issue with integrated slide-out work supports.

What do I like about it? Other than when it binds, the motor seems to have adequate power. The fence is rack and pinion which is a nice touch. However, when you install the riser block it bypasses the rack and pinion, and binds the fence rail in a tight groove making fence adjustment nearly impossible.
Good access to the chuck. I would have given it 2-1/2 stars if that were an option.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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13 comments so far

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#1 posted 10-29-2011 03:14 AM

thanks for the review – sounds like you’ve had a full experience with the unit for better for worse. could use more reviews like this around here.

curious – just as an idea. how feasible would it be to take the mortiser (head+column) and install it on a shopmade table bypassing the metal base all together which will allow you to build a table with better support (larger area) + better clearance height wise (for 6” boards) and better holddowns+wheels +accessories?

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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6176 posts in 3619 days

#2 posted 10-29-2011 03:28 AM

I don’t think it would be feasible for me to remount it. I did think about adding some Magswitch roller supports, but for the price I would just replace the unit with a Woodriver mortiser. I like the roller suports and expandable work supports on that model.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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61 posts in 3753 days

#3 posted 10-29-2011 05:23 AM

I bought my last Delta tool 3 years ago. I got tired of the power switch’s going out. I like the Woodriver mortiser best.

-- It has been deemed bad for you hence there for it is illegal.

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7820 posts in 3607 days

#4 posted 10-29-2011 03:15 PM

I looked at the Delta. Then I went and spent $200 less on the Harbor Freight version. It may look like a piece of junk, but with a couple of homemade upgrades it is at least as good as the Delta.

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3775 days

#5 posted 10-30-2011 01:16 AM

The only redeeming quality of my own bench top mortiser is it fits under the bench when not in use (50 weeks of the year). Unfortunately, bench top mortisers all have the same flaws. You can’t compare them to a floor standing trade rated machine for hold down, travel etc. I ended up taking the back fence and hold down off mine altogether, and use a 2×2 held with g-cramps for the fence, and cramp the workpiece to that for the first cut. The chisel won’t bind if you take a shallow cut first, then move along, cut same depth, move it back and go deeper, then repeat until you are at the right depth. Then you can take out the rest of the mortise, simply holding the workpiece down with your free hand. That way the chisel is only in contact on three sides and it’s not as hard for it to come out.
With regard to support, simply measure the base height and plane down pieces of timber to the same height and put them either side of the base, or use roller stands.

Just noticed your signature – saw Rush at their very first Dublin gig in May, awesome.

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Arlin Eastman

4450 posts in 3367 days

#6 posted 10-30-2011 05:56 AM

Well I guess I bought mine before I read this. It was brand new and the guy never took it out of the box that I could tell. I paid him $100 which included shipping. This is my first mortiser and did not know what to expect, but thinking that Delta made a good product.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

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6176 posts in 3619 days

#7 posted 10-30-2011 10:17 PM

Renners –
I see what you mean about plunging a shallow cut, continuing to the next cut, then returning later to achieve full depth. That seems like it could introduce errors in the cutline. I really expect more from a benchtop mortiser. The solution is simple – get a model with roller wheels. The stock has to be held down and into the fence to avoid binding.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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1531 posts in 3499 days

#8 posted 11-01-2011 03:23 PM

Well-timed review.. I’m looking at getting a mortiser in the next couple months. The Woodriver looks nice and has a lot of chisel/bit sets for $239 right now, but there’s a Jet I’m eyeing on CL for $200 (negotiable price)... I’ve already mentally thrown out the Deltas now.

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

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#9 posted 05-11-2013 02:13 AM

My Delta has had more than enough issues. I still use it but all of the tighteners have broken and have since replaced them with different knobs or vice grips. The cast pieces that the handle attaches to the machine with have broken and were replaced while under warranty. The down action is not smooth at all. It somehow has a catch own the middle as I force it down into the wood. You have to place the drill a good bit below the chisel end, so be careful you do not poke through the other side (it has happened). Like I said I still use it but I have learned my lesson. I have had this machine for over 6 or so years and many great projects were made from it.

-- john, south carolina

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6176 posts in 3619 days

#10 posted 05-11-2013 04:20 AM

Well, the mortiser has performed admirably on the last dozen projects. The bits don’t stick much anymore, and the mortises are accurate. Maybe it just needed to be broken in. Perhaps I was too harsh with my initial review.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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3107 posts in 2831 days

#11 posted 11-02-2014 03:40 AM

I wanted the option of extra height for taller boards, but didn’t want to lose the rack and pinion Y axis with the riser (which is 1 3/4” tall), so I cut part of the middle section away, drilled some holes, and installed an optional shaft that still allows the rack and pinion to function. When I was all done, I realized I could have simply sawed out a section of the middle, which would have been easier. Anyhow, this works. With the other mods I’ve done on the machine (gave it an X axis table, with Bessey self adjusting hold downs), I like it very much. Nothing has broken on this machine, by the way.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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6176 posts in 3619 days

#12 posted 11-02-2014 05:04 AM

^ nice looking modification. The fact that the fence doesn’t adjust with the riser block in place is a frustration for me. I am still not sure why Delta and other brands don’t make the frame a few inches taller. It would sure be nice to mortise 6” wide boards, but I guess that is what floor standing mortisers are for.
Anyways it looks like a good modification to me. Does the 1/4” chisel reach all the way down to the table with the riser block installed? Do you keep the riser block on all the time?
Delta sells an extended rod for the workpiece hold-down, which would help when the riser block is in place (I know you have an X-Y table, but it might help someone who doesn’t have that upgrade). I bought the longer rod for taller workpieces.
Great mod, thanks for posting!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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3107 posts in 2831 days

#13 posted 11-02-2014 07:03 AM

Actually, I don’t have the riser installed, and won’t until the time comes that I need the extra height. I don’t know whether the 1/4” chisel will reach all the way to the table with the riser block in place. I’ll have to check that out. Of course, the chisel length limits the depth of the mortise in any case. For 3/4” material I prefer the 5/16” chisel. The mortise walls are still strong, and the tenon is stronger than a 1/4” tenon. I like that the Delta came with the 5/16” chisel. Not all included chisel sets do.

It just occurred to me that if I really needed more height, I could make a riser to fit on top of the riser. Maybe make it out of 3/4” aluminum, which I can get pretty easily. Might even have some.

Before I did my mod on the riser casting, I toyed with the idea of simply fabricating one out of steel. For example, a 6” wide piece of channel steel would be easy to do. Just drill the holes for the bolts and the pinion shaft. Of course, there’d need to be some sort of guide slot for the gear rack, but that wouldn’t be hard to do. Okay, I admit it need a bit more thinking. Maybe the way I did it was the best, at least for now.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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