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Thread: Mortiser

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Ridgecrest, CA


    Looking at a mortiser. Some of you probably remember me whining about cutting mortises in hard maple. I'm back on that and need to get it done. I see woodcraft has a rikon mortiser on sale for $300. I was previously looking at the powermatic bench top model, but it's closer to $500. Anyone have either of these and is there anything I need to be aware of if buying it?

    Back to the garage to whack on some more wood.

  2. #2
    I went through this search extensively just over a year ago. I looked at ALL of them, including Rikon. I was drawn to the Rikon because of the features, price and the fact that I have one of their bandsaws and Im quite satisfied with it.

    In the end, I bought the Powermatic for two reasons. First, I felt like a mortiser is one of those tools that by its nature gets alot of stress - youre pulling on a lever cutting a square hole. The PM seemed to be the heaviest duty tool of all the benchtops I looked at. Second, every review I read in magazines, on chat rooms and on seller sites praised the PM. So I saved up another $200 and bought one. (Got an excellent deal from Jeannie at Tools Plus, thanks to one of the guys here!) I havent regretted it a bit - I smile every time I see or use that machine. Well worth the money. Wish I could swing more PM tools. Sigh.

    The Rikon and the JET were #2 and #3 on my list. (Edit: This ranking tells you something because I really like JET tools. The Rikon was just a better all around value in my estimation.)

    Whatever you buy, be sure to tune up the chisels - flatten and polish them as you would a bench chisel or a plane iron. It significantly improves their performance. (Edit: I bought PM chisels too.)

    Good luck Casey. Let us know what you decide.

    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 01-07-2017 at 7:05 PM.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Ridgecrest, CA
    Thanks Fred, that's the information I was looking for. Looks like it'll be the powermatic.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Fort Collins, Colorado
    I have one from General and its ok. If I buy another it woulf be a floor standing model that the work clamps to the table. While my table top one gets the job done its a fight to the bitter end. If trying to do a large mortise in Hard maple a table top is going to be a fight at best.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Use a router. You probably already own one. Use a template or edge guide depending upon the application.


  6. #6
    [QUOTE=John TenEyck;2643642]Use a router. You probably already own one. Use a template or edge guide depending upon the application.

    John[/QUOTE I agree with what John is saying. I have cut hundreds of really nice mortises with my routers. I have a slot mortiser which pretty much serves this task in my shop now but given a funky set up I'll still go to my router and a custom jig.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Virginia and Kentucky
    I own the Powermatic and love it. Jet has a 15% sale going on a couple more days if that makes more sense.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Central North Carolina
    A router with a spiral up cut bit will make more accurate mortises and do it much easier and more accurately in any wood than a square chisel mortise machine. I switched to doing mortises with a router like John suggested and using floating tenons made with my planer and table saw to fit them. This worked very well for me and it was a considerable step up from my square chisel mortise machine approach that I had been using.

    Then I went another step further up and now use a Leigh FMT Pro jig and my router to make both the mortise and matching tenon with the same jig setup. The result is mortises and tenons that fit together perfectly every time with no manual fine tuning needed after the cuts, even in very hard woods like maple. I can now make them faster than I ever could with my old square chisel mortiser and table saw and they always fit together perfectly. If you are going to spend the big money for a Powermatic square chisel mortise machine, going to an FMT jig should be a "no brainer" as far as $ investment is concerned. You don't need square corner mortises and tenons for strength, but if the Old World square shape is critical for a certain "thru mortise" Greene and Greene type design, there is a square template available for the FMT to allow making square tenons, and you can chisel cut the rounded matching mortises square to fit them by hand for the few that you might want for that certain unique project. The strength of a mortise and tenon comes from the glued together sides of the mortise and it's matching tenon and not from the end surfaces of the mortise and the tenon, so it makes no difference whether they are round or square ended. Most mortises and tenons are never even seen after project assembly anyway. The FMT jig has a single adjustment that lets you fine tune the joint for the tightness of fit between the mortise and it's matching tenon. Once you set it for the tightness of fit that you want, every joint made after that fits together with that same tightness. It's so precise that you can make a pop gun sound when you pull the tenon back out of the mortise during a dry fit, or make the fit a few thousandths looser so that there is room for the glue, and this fit is repeatable to less than .001". Do yourself a favor and at least look into the FMT jigs or at least try making router mortises like John suggests above and making floating tenons to fit them before spending the money on a square chisel mortiser and tenon cutter for your table saw. Routing mortises is fast and easy to do if you have a router, an up cut bit and an edge guide. You probably won't even need to invest in anything new to give it a try.

    Last edited by Charles Lent; 01-08-2017 at 12:42 PM.

  9. #9
    havent given much time to the router for mortises and even the horizontal mortiser still like the chisel. Before I got a mortise machine I used the drill press with the chisel attachment and it worked pretty well. My only concern on that is its probably hard on the drill press doing hard maple and some other woods.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Sacramento, CA
    Or.... Wait and save up for that Domino XL
    If at first you don't succeed, redefine success!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Palm Springs area, So Cal
    I used a Shop Fox model with the dual column on the swivel base and it worked great. The Japanese chisels from Grizzly made a significant difference and yielded very clean mortises in hardwood. I was making a lot of mission style tables that used many square spindles that needed to be mortised into slats and rails. The mortiser was critical in eliminating rotation of the closely spaced spindles, and the resulting glue ups of the many parts went quickly as a result. I also used it for large through mortises where pegs of contrasting woods were used and needed perfectly square corners and my router would have required a LOT of hand work to clean up the corners.

    I agree that often a router can be used and have done many mortises that way with excellent results, however if square corners are required for alignment of parts, or as a visible enhancement, then a mortiser is really hard to beat. Like so many tools, it is a one-trick machine and so I sold it after a few years when I was finished with that furniture project and it was just taking up space.
    Dick Mahany.

  12. #12
    Router is my last choice, but there is a Festo chain mortiser, wysong 284 and a Maka to choose from first.

    Plus I hate making jigs. And the cool one for my festool router is too much money.

    I really don't know much about bench top models, I know that it's still a fair amount of effort even with a big manual free standing machine.
    Last edited by Darcy Warner; 01-08-2017 at 1:36 PM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Lent View Post
    A router with a spiral up cut bit will make more accurate mortises and do it much easier and more accurately in any wood than a square chisel mortise machine.

    You are kidding right? There have probably been millions upon millions of mortises cut with a hollow chisel mortiser, or chain mortiser for that matter.
    I would dare say the bulk of factory and woodshop work out there uses them.
    To make a statement that a router is faster, easier, and more accurate is quite a stretch. Accuracy is inherent to initial machining, fine tuning, and setup with these. They are dependent on the precision and accuracy of the user.
    They will and do make accurate joinery at a speed and ease that a router could only hope for. When I started in business, I had to use a router and make a jig once for some mortises. ONCE!
    Never again if I have options like a real dedicated machine.
    In my experience, a router is the next slowest thing to hand chopping.
    With chain and chisel machines, there is generally no vibration. If it is 1/2" it makes 1/2", but with a router, you get vibration and chatter causing inaccuracy that can easily affect and ruin normal glue joint tolerances.
    If there were a race to do 100 mortises of a given size in any specie of wood, between a chain, or chisel mortiser and a router with any jig, the router would be the last place I would place a bet.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Victoria, BC
    I have a midrange general (75 050 without the tilt basically) that does everything I ask of it, especially after I bought good (LV) chisels for it. I basically only cut 1/4" or 5/16" mortises anyways. So I only need one good chisel.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Highland MI
    Blog Entries
    If I really wanted a dedicated mortiser, it would be a floor mount version. That being said, I cut a bunch of 5/8" mortises in white oak with a Delta adapter on my Craftsman drill press, and will continue to go that route.
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    NOW you tell me...

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