Mortise Pal, Router Boss, Dowelling Leigh, Woodrat, Kreg etc etc etc

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Forum topic by nadnodbe posted 07-14-2010 10:09 PM 4619 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View nadnodbe's profile


6 posts in 3195 days

07-14-2010 10:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: mortise tenon pocket hole kreg pockethole woodrat leigh jig


This is probably a lot of question but my head is spinning so I do think I need to ask it!

I am starting out in woodworking and have reached the stage where I need to invest in a jig to do some joinery. I have looked at all of the above jigs for the different types of joinery and am so confused what would be best.

I understand that pocket hole is probably the simplest and cheapest but isn’t a very aesthetic or traditional type of joinery (though I do understand it has its advantages) and may be limited in, for example, chair building.

I see that mortise and tenon joinery is very strong and even with a loose tenon, often but maybe not always stronger than dowelling.

I have observed(!) that the Domino joiner is expensive but capable, but that its joints are still perhaps not as strong as a good accurate M+T.

Then there’s all the different types of jigs. I must say I am tempted by the woodrat but my does it look complicated. The Router Boss seems to be the same type of system but seems to be derided a bit on the web at large?

Please, Lumberjocks, what would you advise a novice woodworker acquire who wants to develop his skills, invest maybe up to $600 and get a complete or pretty comprehensive system for lots of joints – or a truly great system for one type of joint (for example it should create BOTH mortise and tenon if it is a M+T jig).

Thank you!!!

7 replies so far

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3196 days

#1 posted 07-14-2010 10:34 PM

The new version of the Leigh FMT has gotten great reviews (Fine Woodworking, etc), check it out.

I have the original, and from what I have seen, not much difference other than the materials used in construction of it.

I like it for mortise and tenon work, but it does have it’s limits.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3345 days

#2 posted 07-14-2010 11:33 PM

I went through the same decision making process just recently. In my case, I already had the Kreg pocket hole system and I think it is great for certain applications. It’s almost always my first choice when I can hide the joint. It’s very strong and easy to use.

However, I wanted something in addition to the pocket hole system. I seriously considered everything you have listed and then some. My final decision was mortise pal. My decision was impacted to some degree by my desire to put a tenon on the end of some long (6’ +) boards. On several of the options you list, you almost have to work with the board in a vertical position. I can use the mortise pal in a horizontal or angled position.

If you don’t have a Kreg pocket hole system I would recommend getting one because it is so easy to work with and you will still want to have it after you get another system (if you do). Then determine if you need something else.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3406 days

#3 posted 07-14-2010 11:40 PM

I doubt you would regret buying a Kreg pocket hole jig. There are times it is exactly what you want to use, especially when you need to make something for in the shop (jig, cabinet, table) or you have a job you want to get done fast. Even if you never use it on a final “project”, it is very likely you will be happy you have it.

I’ve recently started doing mortise and tenons with a pretty simple shop-made mortise jig for my plunge router and a Rockler-brand tenoning jig. See my blog for more info. I am not fast at making M&T joints, but I haven’t done so many yet and I’ve been happy with the results. I would not discourage someone from using a shop made tenoning jig. The downside to this approach is that it takes time and effort to make the jigs, learn how to use them, and figure out how to fine-tune the fit of the joints, and its probably the wrong solution for large production volume. In the end this feels like a very good fit for a hobby-type woodworker like myself.

I looked at the more expensive systems a bit, but I just didn’t see that I would benefit much from them given the relatively small fraction of my woodworking time that I would spend using them. I will certainly reconsider them if I ever start doing large projects frequently.

-- Greg D.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5168 posts in 4231 days

#4 posted 07-15-2010 12:00 AM

Ditto on the Kreg system. Regardless of what you might read, I have used my basic alloy Kreg for over 12 years without 1 failure. Keep in mind that I don’t build chairs, but the benches I have built are still as solid as day 1. Sure, there are more traditional methods. I use a lot of M & T joinery for the look, but they are hand cut.

-- [email protected]

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3254 days

#5 posted 07-15-2010 02:24 AM

Since your just starting out, do you have an idea of what type of joints you are really interested in. Have you thought of using box/finger joints? This would be a jig that can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Of course box joints does tend to lead to dovetail joints, in which case the Leigh jig would be the way to go. There are many jigs that you can make to make different types of joinery, but for pocket hole joinery I would go with the Kreg jig. While I’m not a huge fan of pocket hole joinery there are times when its the best for certain situations, same as any other joint. Since you asked for the advice I would say learn to build some of the jigs to do different joinery with and save some money for the things you will really want down the road. But then thats just me.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View rcs47's profile


200 posts in 3400 days

#6 posted 07-15-2010 05:42 AM

I with you on the Domino. If I won the Lotto, yes. I can’t justify the cost for hobby work.

I just went through the same process Rich did, and don’t know why I waited so long to buy the MortisePal. The factor that pushed me away from the Leigh Super FMT (by the time you get the extra templates and bits you may be over your budget) was working on the end of a long rail. It would be difficult with the FMT, forcing you to stand on a ladder, or lay the jig on its back. The MortisePal does not have these limitations because you bring the jig to the work.

I have the mortise attachment for my drill press, but no matter how much time I spent in the set up, I still had to clean up the mortises. I found that a forstner bit and chisel was just about as fast. I also have the Kreg system, but go with a M&T on almost all joints.

The MortisePal makes the M&T process simple. Once you mark out your centers, you can cut them very fast. It works great with lose tenons (the design), but also with fixed tenons if you want to cut them on the rails.

Of course you will need a plunge router and the router bits.

Many people have the dedicated mortise machine and love it. I was considering Steel City, Delta, and Powermatic because they seem to have a good base. The Jet base seemed to be too unstable. You will need a tenoning jig too. I didn’t go that route because I needed something that didn’t take up a lot of room, and would allow me to do angled mortises. Most bench top mortise machines have a limited stock thickness you can put into them, but you can add a spacer. There are a few machines that will tilt (I think General?), or you go to a floor model. It depends on your needs.

If you go with a dedicated mortise machine, be sure to get a mortise chisel sharpening system/stone.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

View ChrisCarr's profile


196 posts in 3169 days

#7 posted 07-15-2010 07:43 AM

I use the kreg pocket hole jig for much of my projects and it is quick + easy to use. But I still do some classic mortise and tenon work because nothing beats it for strength. You may have to cut tenons on one piece and drill/chisel mortises on the other but it requires no jig (just a TS w/ miter gauge and a drill and chisels.) and is fun to do. But if you don’t like doing all that work just get the kreg or make a simple mortising jig from free plans.

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