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Thread: Mortiser or Router?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Punta Gorda, FL

    Mortiser or Router?

    When making mortises by machine, between using a router or using a mortiser...

    1. Which do you find most accurate?

    2. Which do you find easiest?
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Chagrin Falls, OH
    Is the Domino an option?

    As for the two choices you have, well, it depends. Are you talking big old arn floor standing Mortiser, or a bench mounted type?

    For the router, simple edge guide or a woodrat or jds type machine, or shop made jig?

    What size mortises?

  3. #3
    I had a dedicated mortiser years ago and I never used it so I got rid of it. It's faster and easier, IMO, to just use a router or router table to make pretty much any mortise. I can square the corners faster than I can hog out the material on a mortiser, or I just make tenons with rounded corners.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    There are several different mortiser types out there so it's hard to generalize, but I will anyway. For me, a router is faster and easier and gives you a precisely cut, smooth mortise, something many mortisers can't do, certainly not the typical chisel mortiser. You should build one of my horizontal router mortisers. It makes mortises, tenons, and much more quickly, easily, accurately, and safely.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Princeton, NJ
    Blog Entries
    This should probably be narrowed to specific choices.

    CNC swing chisel mortiser is likely the fastest and most accurate.

    I've chopped a considerable number of mortises by hand, which can at times be faster than machine but certainly relies heavily upon experience.

    I've used a router guide set to knife gauge marks and it works well and is extremely fast with the right bits.

    I have recently added a Felder FD-250, with the right bits its pretty quick and certainly it can be extremely accurate which is wonderful. It can be outfitted with a square chisel but for the moment I'm simply squaring up the ends.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Punta Gorda, FL
    When I thought I needed to get into mortising for doing doors, I bought a Powermatic benchtop mortiser (PM701). I also bought four Powermatic "premier" chisels. Following the directions exactly, I went to make my first mortise. It did not go like what I had seen online. The edges were pretty ratty. I made numerous attempts after that to fine tune it, including making sure the chisels were sharp, but never could get clean edges.

    Though I hardly used it, I packed the mortiser and moved it to the new house. For the past two years it's only been collecting dust. Yesterday I was looking at other possibilities to making cabinet doors, other than cope and stick frames I typically make with a router bit set.

    Going to mortise and tenon, I can get two widths from the boards.

    So I pulled out the mortiser, cleaned it up and set it up to make 1/4" x 1-3/4" mortises. Results were pretty much the same as before.

    I know the shoulders on the tenon piece will hide the ratty edges but I'm concerned about the ratty interior of the mortise and how well it will hold when glued. That's when I began to wonder if I'd be better off if I just made a mortising jig for the router.
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Griswold Connecticut

    More accurate? My Delta 14-651.
    Easier? My Delta 14-651.
    It is not fast though. It is SLOW!
    It took a lot of work to make my bench top mortiser work correctly. Out of the box it was pretty crude. The chisels and bits, the bits have to be sharpened also, were just awful. I have heard that the Clico's are supposed to be the best, but they are $$$$. The head and ways had to be stoned for proper operation and alignment. The base table, fence, and hold down, are "somewhere". They were also awful and completely unacceptable. I haven't seen them in a few years.
    The mortiser now sits on a homemade base with an X-Y vise and built in dial indicators. I would been better of buying an FMT from the start, had I known better.

    If you didn't already have a mortiser, I would tell you to use a router, with home built jig, one of the zillion jigs available third party, or build the horizontal slot mortiser John linked to. If you're going to be using floating tenons, and it sounds as if you are, a router would certainly do it. both fast and accurately.

    If you're worried about the interior surfaces, and bonding, of the mortises you cut with your current mortiser, use an epoxy with a thixotropic agent, or just buy a kit of T-88, or something similar to fill gaps.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Central WI
    I do a lot of floating tenons and because I like machines, I have a Fay and Egan chisel mortiser, a Felder F250, A Maka SM 6, and a Bacci. My favorite all around is the Bacci, but mainly because 5/8" mortises in end grain hickory don't beat you to death like the FD 250. Maka is pretty sweet but hard to find a reasonably priced used machine. The Bacci type can be had pretty cheap if you can figure out how to fix pneumatics that may be mucked up. The hollow chisel is used the least and mainly for smaller stuff. I don't have a domino but if I were starting over, it would likely be my first choice as it is versatile and doesn't use up floor space. Dave

    PS: A multirouter should also be considered if you can find one for a decent price. It works best for smaller mortises but provides a handy way to turn a router into a flexible machine.
    Last edited by David Kumm; 12-28-2017 at 5:15 PM.

  9. #9
    mortising attachment in a drill press works fine. Used that till I got a mortiser.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    N.E, Ohio
    I have the now discontinued Mortise Pal and have used it twice and it works great. Nice smooth mortises. I need to perfect making my loose tenons. I made some that were not perfect but did work. A little more work with the router table making tenons and I will be fine. I really like the Mortise Pal.

    One thing I really like about using loose tenons is you can make your components to final size without allowing for the length of the tenon.

    Making sawdust regularly, occasionally a project is completed.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Lake View Post
    mortising attachment in a drill press works fine. Used that till I got a mortiser.
    I've got a set of those too. Don't think I've ever used them. I didn't even remember I had them until I moved and found them in a box.

  12. #12
    Another Mortise Pal user here. If I knew they were going to stop making them I wouldn’t have sold my version 1 when I bought my version 2.
    She said “How many woodworking tools do you need?”
    I said “Why? Do you know someone who is selling some?”

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    A lot of good advice has been given. David has a good point about the Domino I once owed a Felder FD 250. I didn’t use it that much because I found that bringing the work to the machine is harder that bringing the machine to the work. I built and still do build a lot of doors and I find it’s easier to bring the Domino to the work. Easier to set up and fast. Mortisers are slow unless you plan to spend a bunch of money. I believe most fellows who own a Domino will agree they work well and if you thinking of using a router buy a good one and put some thought into how you will approach your technique. I use a Festool 1400 with two fences for large mortises or a Festool MFS set up. Again in my opinion it’s easier to bring the tool to the work especially if you are doing this as a hobby
    sometimes it's people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one imagines. Alan Turing

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Lewiston, Idaho

    I have done both.

    I have a General International mortiser with their stock chisels. I didn't have good luck with it UNTIL I started using a diamond cone shaped hone to hone the inside of the chisel and then hone the outside with a flat diamond hone that I use on some of my turning tools. I use a cone shaped reamer to cut a new edge and then hone it with the diamond cone hone. Once a new edge is cut, I can hone for a lot mortises. It's important that the fence and the back side of the chisel be absolutely parallel to prevent ratty edges too.

    I prefer the mortiser but I have done both. If I was just doing a few, I'd use a router bit on my router table.

    It is like a lot of things, it's subjective.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Trussville, AL
    I use a domino for most thing now but prior to that I used a router and homemade jig for years. I’ve owned a benchtop Delta for over a decade now and have maybe used it 3 times. Router is easier and faster.

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