How Do You Mortise?

IMG_Mortises2WaysThis week I have gotten little time in the shop. During the week that’s understandable because of my return to Popular Woodworking Magazine (PWM). But Saturdays I generally get six to eight straight hours woodworking – except for a lunch break for wings and a beverage at local eatery. However, this weekend I am teaching a class at the Dayton, Oh., area Woodcraft; the class is building a splay-legged end table.

In the class after we discussed how to taper legs at the jointer – no it’s not multiple passes made using a stop block (see the process here in a short video I made while at PWM) – we went over a couple ways to cut mortises. IMG_RouterMethodOf the six guys in the class, three chose to use a benchtop mortise machine and three elected to router-cut their mortises. (It didn’t surprise me that no one attending my class would decide to chop mortises by hand.) I was left wondering how you guys cut your mortises.

I’m partial to my floor-model mortise machine.  I would recommend that machine to woodworkers that plan to use mortise-and-tenon joinery in most of their projects, if that is, you have the funds necessary and are interested in spending a sizable chunk for one machine. But if I had to choose between a benchtop machine and my router, I think it would depend on how many mortises I cut annually.

What do you think? How do you cut mortises for your furniture projects? Leave a comment to let me know.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Joinery, Power Tools, Routers

10 responses to “How Do You Mortise?

  1. Charlie Lenz

    First of all, your lucky to have a job like that. I have a mortising machine, and a tenon cutter for the table saw.

  2. I use a bench top mortiser, modified with a cross sliding vise to hold the work. The micro adjustments possible with the vise make for very precise placement. I also have a foot powered 1876 mortiser but its footprint is big so I keep that at a local museum for demonstrations.

  3. I rarely use my bench top mortiser, preferring the router with a shop made mortising jig.

  4. Hi Glen, I made a bench-top mortising station for my router. It works like a charm! Here is a photo of it:

  5. Tom

    I use the drill press to take out most of it and a chisel for the rest.

  6. Larry

    I use a bench top mortiser. Works quite well.

  7. John Richardson

    Hi Glen:
    I use my bench top square chisel mortiser. Since it is an older model, I have set it up with “in-line” skate wheel to keep the material against the fence. Works great and does not hinder moving the material along as need for the next “chop.”

    By the way, Glen, (re: 18th Cent. New England Secretary project) Rockler no longer handles the “Prospect Box” lock set. What do you suggest? I ordered everything else as per your list in the book and am expecting it to arrive shortly.

    John Richardson

  8. Bench mortiser. Seems easiest to setup. Takes a little cleanup with a chisel though. Seems like it’s 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.

  9. Roger Johnson

    Hi Glen I do most of my mortising with the router,I don’t think there is a smoother finish out there and very accurate.

  10. a49model

    Hi Glen, I use a Powermatic bench top model 701 (a great unit but heavy) and I also use a Bill Hylton designed jig for loose tenon joinery that I made out of maple and adjusted the design to fit my router. This jig works great for mortises.

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