Mortise methods

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Forum topic by GrantA posted 08-14-2018 10:56 PM 1384 views 0 times favorited 33 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2542 posts in 2175 days

08-14-2018 10:56 PM

I’m using a drill press and cleaning up with chisels, looking to speed up the process! If it’s still available there’s a powermatic nearby that they’re asking $1100 for (floor standing not benchtop). That’s more than I want to spend but if I’ll hate a benchtop model then maybe I should jump on that
I’ll be cutting mortises from 1/4-3/4 wide, it seems the most common complaint on benchtop models is the hold down.
Them there’s the domino… Looks like that’ll cost a grand really.
Looking for feedback here, thanks!

33 replies so far

View wuddoc's profile


359 posts in 4486 days

#1 posted 08-15-2018 12:05 AM

If you are near enough to Atlanta IWF2018 is coming up soon and the companies or distributors usually have show specials.

The more horsepower the easier it is to create a larger mortise. Keep in mind if you are making a through mortise check the chisel lengths offered.

-- Wuddoc

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Richard Lee

297 posts in 1543 days

#2 posted 08-15-2018 12:43 AM

Why not look at one of these for that price you could get a nice dedicated mortiser.

Or get the domino.

View runswithscissors's profile


3097 posts in 2793 days

#3 posted 08-15-2018 01:11 AM

I’m guessing the Domino wouldn’t make 3/4” mortises very easily. Probably have to move the fence to get a wider mortise. And aren’t they limited in depth capacity? Not that I would mind having one.

I tried a drill press mortiser, and like most people, I immediately saw its limitations. I bought a Delta bench top, and modified it to have an X-Y table that works very well, and toggle clamps for quickly securing and releasing the stock. Proved to be a great asset when making several hundred (small—1/2” x 1/4”, and shallow) mortises for louvered doors. The toggle clamps held strongly enough that there was no problem with lifting of the work. Oh I also used it to mortise the stiles for the rails (3 per door—36 total).

Though some machines let you rotate the head for angled mortises, all you need is to offset (rotate) the chisel when you mount it. For the louvers, the mortises had to be on a slant.

I do admire the stationary mortisers, but my budget and needs don’t justify them.

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

View Sludgeguy's profile


57 posts in 890 days

#4 posted 08-15-2018 01:16 AM

I use spiral upcut router bits and a guide. Depth is limited but it’s fast and clean.

View bandit571's profile


25873 posts in 3451 days

#5 posted 08-15-2018 01:21 AM


Afraid mine are of the cordless style…..

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View GrantA's profile (online now)


2542 posts in 2175 days

#6 posted 08-15-2018 01:24 AM

Richard I’m not sure I’m following you I am considering a dedicated machine
Bandit that’s my preference but I’d love to save some time, maybe I just need more practice though

View bandit571's profile


25873 posts in 3451 days

#7 posted 08-15-2018 01:30 AM

There is a series of videos on youtube..”Traditional Chinese Woodworking” GE Hong. Might want to watch that old fellow do a through mortise….in about the time it took to type this out…..

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12169 posts in 4196 days

#8 posted 08-15-2018 01:34 AM

I have a new bench top type machine. I used it quite a bit building two Morris chairs and ottomans. The wood was QSWO. The mortises were all 3 5/8 deep and 3/4 wide. I first tried hogging them out with just the mortiser. No go. So, I used a 5/8 forstner to make a few holes about half way through, leaving enough wood between the holes for the mortiser bit to grab. It was still hard working but, they got the job done. A floor model would be much easier.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View BigMig's profile


474 posts in 3381 days

#9 posted 08-15-2018 01:46 AM

Depending on your long term needs, maybe a router and whiteside bits?

-- Mike from Lansdowne, PA

View GrantA's profile (online now)


2542 posts in 2175 days

#10 posted 08-15-2018 01:51 AM

The one I found is about 3 hours drive away (one way). It’s a PM719t in like new condition (used for two jobs supposedly). He wants $1100 and doesn’t want to judge. I’m torn. I offered $700 but no go

I’ve thought about the router method but I’d prefer square mortises and I would like to be able to just follow a line, for random sizes I’ve marked out. I’m mostly debating whether a benchtop machine would leave me wanting more

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1516 days

#11 posted 08-15-2018 02:13 AM

I have used my entry level Jet benchtop mortiser for years. It does fine work and I have no complaints. That said, it would be nice to have a few extra capabilities. Mortising at an angle would really be good. I can compensate for not having a head unit that angles, so it isn’t a huge deal. A better table would be nice.

So, I do just fine with what I have, but if I was buying a new unit, I’d get a higher level mortiser. But $1100 is a bit stout for something I don’t use every month.

View EarlS's profile


3728 posts in 3116 days

#12 posted 08-15-2018 11:14 AM

I actually went with the Leigh M&T jig. You can buy a set of square tenon templates and then square up the mortises by hand. The best feature is that the mortise and tenon are both cut from the same template so they have a nice tight fit. Of course, the downside is the price and you are limited by the templates for sizes.

Otherwise, reviews on the Powermatic benchtop mortise are good and it isn’t so expensive.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View GrantA's profile (online now)


2542 posts in 2175 days

#13 posted 08-15-2018 11:49 AM

Yeah I was just reading about the leigh this morning then realized it costs as much as the 719t I’m considering

View bondogaposis's profile


5783 posts in 3119 days

#14 posted 08-15-2018 12:41 PM

I use a plunge router with a simple shop made jig. It is 2 or three times faster than the drill press and paring chisel method.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View ChuckC's profile


844 posts in 3703 days

#15 posted 08-15-2018 12:51 PM

I have the Powermatic 701 bench top and have had no issues with the hold down. It doesn’t get used a lot but I’m happy that I have it when I do.

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