Drill Press w/Mortising Attachment vs Stand Alone Mortiser

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Forum topic by Brian024 posted 12-07-2010 05:31 AM 10514 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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358 posts in 3937 days

12-07-2010 05:31 AM

Topic tags/keywords: drill press chisel

After doing cutting and cleaning the mortises for my current project today, I got the thinking that maybe its time to invest in a mortiser. My method for cutting mortises right now is a router w/edge guide and then going back and cleaning/squaring with a chisel. It hasn’t bothered me a whole lot until today when I noticed how much time I was spending doing that part alone, I only had 8 to do. My current project is a comissioned table for a lady as a Christmas present to her husband, which is why I noticed the time it was taking, I’m not rushing to get the project done (I just have to one more simple grove to cut then its off the assembly). If I hadn’t had a deadine for the project I probably wouldn’t have noticed but it really got me thinking of how much time one might save. I was debating on which to get, I know I would use the drill press a lot but is the mortising attachment worth it or would I be better off getting a mortiser? I know the mortiser has one use but I do mortise and tennons on a fairly regular basis.

23 replies so far

View Blakep's profile


232 posts in 3339 days

#1 posted 12-07-2010 05:50 AM

I have a Mortise machine from harbor freight and it works well but you still have to clean them up a little bit with chisels or at least I do. I don’t use it that much so that’s why I went with one from Harbor Freight. I do like having it seperate from My drill press though.

View ClayandNancy's profile


525 posts in 3552 days

#2 posted 12-07-2010 05:51 AM

I have the Jet model and love it. I thought there would be to much changing back and forth when I needed to just drill a hole with the drill press unit.

View dbhost's profile


5772 posts in 3769 days

#3 posted 12-07-2010 06:01 AM

FWIW, the setup / teardown time alone of a drill press mortising attachment kills any interest for me in one of those. So instead, I would like a dedicated mortiser…. The shop fox 3/4 HP unit looks awfully good to me.

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View cabmaker's profile


1745 posts in 3346 days

#4 posted 12-07-2010 06:01 AM

No contest, the designated mortiser will win everytime. Good luck

View danr's profile


154 posts in 3722 days

#5 posted 12-07-2010 06:06 AM

My input would be to get the dedicated mortiser if the budget allows. Like you, I make lots of mortise/tennon joints and have been doing so for many years.

-Initially, I used a drill and chisel because I was just staring off.

-I then upgraded to a drill press attatchment using the hollow mortise chisels. The main yoke of the attatchement (cast iron) cracked after a limited ammout of use and even when I was using it there was a bit of an alignment issue.

-I then built a mortising machine with a linearly sliding table using a spiral up-cut router bit and router (plans and kit from shop notes). This was a great project and even better, it worked extrememly well. I then had to spend the time, like you, to square up the corners by hand but I enjoyed doing it (not very time efficient).

-I then bought a used (almost like new) JET floor standing mortiser. It works very well and is fast.

So this has been my path over 25 years and like so many other tool experiences, I ask my self “why did I not do this earlier?????” So my moral to this story is, when buying power tools, always, always, always purchase the very best tools that you can afford. I have never regretted it. I’m sure that you will make a good decision.

View PaulJerome's profile


57 posts in 3571 days

#6 posted 12-07-2010 04:36 PM

Unless you’re doing through mortises my question would be why? IMO, the router does a great job and it’s much easier to round the tenon than square the mortise. Save the money.

-- Paul, Central Illinois

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51458 posts in 4018 days

#7 posted 12-07-2010 05:10 PM

I think if you do a lot of mortising, I would get a dedicated one. You could get a good bench top machine and build a floor stand for it if you dont want to spend money on the floor model. I have the Powermatic tilting table floor model and its sooooo nice not have to keep re-tooling everytime you want to do something with the drill press.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

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Bill White

5228 posts in 4498 days

#8 posted 12-07-2010 05:59 PM

Wanna buy my drill press mortising attachments? That answer your question?

-- [email protected]

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3698 days

#9 posted 12-07-2010 06:05 PM

Definitely dedicated. Reconfiguration is the reason that you don’t see ShopSmiths used(as they are advertised) in too many shops across the country. They work for just a few but from what I’ve seen, folks generally keep them set up for a single task and leave them that way. No, I’m not bashing ShopSmith, from what I’ve seen they are good machines. They(like cobbling a mortiser to your DP) just don’t fit the ‘methods’ of the typical woodworker.

As for the mortiser… I’d strongly suggest building a horizontal router instead.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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5695 posts in 4200 days

#10 posted 12-07-2010 06:19 PM

The drill press mortising attachments are harder to setup, and harder to cut deep mortises … most people describe them as ‘finicky’.

If you are using a benchtop drill press, save your money. Most of the attachments are designed for floor models.

With the drill press attachments, you are using the drill press’s feed levers to plunge both the auger and the hollow chisel. If you are working with hardwoods, that can be slow going. The feed levers on most drill presses are short (only a few inches) compared to the handle on a hollow chisel mortiser (my Jet JBM-5’s handle is about 3 times the length of the feed levers on my drill press), which means you gain considerable leverage with the hollow chisel that you can’t get with a drill press.

Check out Tom Hintz’ review at ... to quote Tom: “Unless you hate yourself and enjoy frustration, stay away from these imposters.”


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Dennis Mikulski's profile

Dennis Mikulski

23 posts in 4361 days

#11 posted 12-07-2010 06:35 PM

I have a delta 14-651 mortiser. I found out realy fast how much time I can saved. The set up is easy and if you keep the chisels sharp there is little to none in clean up. I would not give mine up for anything.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3612 days

#12 posted 12-07-2010 06:42 PM

I have a mortising machine and I have been disappointed with it. I just don’t get the clean cuts I want very conveniently.

When it comes to joinery we have lots of options these days. After much research, I opted for the Mortise Pal and that has become my preferred method of joinery. I also use pocket holes in some situations and dowels in other situations. The only time I use conventional mortise and tenon is when I want to do a through mortise.

If I had it to do over again, I would not bother with a mortising machine.

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

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5695 posts in 4200 days

#13 posted 12-07-2010 07:20 PM

Rich—Which machine do you have?

I have a Jet JBM-5, supplemented with Rockler’s table and fence and a 2 cone sharpening set. A couple of my chisels are getting a bit worn, but if I lap the outsides, sharpen them with the cones, and use backer boards to prevent blowout, I get clean cuts.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3937 days

#14 posted 12-07-2010 09:23 PM

Thanks for the great input guys. The consensuses seems to be a mortiser, which I was thinking. I don’t have much knowledge about the attachments for drill presses and the main concern I had was how good they work and the amount of setup time. I’ve been looking around and I did notice the Shop Fox is the only bench top with a 3/4 hp motor, all others have a 1/2 hp, plus the thickness of the stock is greater to. The price for the Shop Fox also is less than all others. I did notice that the Ridgid machines at the Home Depot I work at are going down in price every few months. We have about 5 or 6 drill presses in stock so I may get one when the price goes down a lot and grab a drill press then.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3612 days

#15 posted 12-07-2010 09:24 PM

Gerry – I also have a Jet JBM-5, supplemented with Rockler’s table and fence. I’ve not used mine enough to wear anything out.

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

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