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  • Mortising help

    As I have wandered into woodworking I have found that one of the most time-consuming but beneficial techniques is mortise-and-tenon joinery. The drill press and hand chisel combination is okay but slow. I would like to have a more efficient way to produce decent quality joints. I have seen jigs for routing mortises with a router, but have yet to try to make one (and the setup for these seems cumbersome). I have priced some hollow-chisel mortisers, but $300 is a lot to spend for one task. I have also seen mortising attachments for the drill press, but do not know how well they work. I also do not know if such an attachment is available for my drill press (recent model 10" Craftsman benchtop). Does anyone have any suggestions? I appreciate any thoughts on this, even if it is the "shut up and use your chisel" advice.

  • #2
    Re: Mortising help

    I am a devotee of mortise and tenon and floating tenon joinery also. I have a Kreg jig for pocket screws and use it when I'm banging out a jillion kitchen cabinets, but for good furniture I only use M&T or floating tenon joinery.

    You can use chisels with or without drilling to mortise pretty quickly. But you NEED a set of socket firmer chisels, not beveled edge bench chisels! And a good set of those is, like a good set of beveled chisels, scary expensive! I like "Two Cherries" chisels but sheesh the price has gotten outrageous. Good thing I already have mine!!

    The router method works fine. You can make a jig and yes you will spend time with the setup... but presumably you have more than one mortise to cut. Or just use a router table with a fence, which requires very little setup. You have to make several passes because it's dangerous and doesn't work well to try to take too much off with one pass. Use one of those upcutting type router bits to clear the chips. It does become time consuming to do this with multiple passes if you have a lot of mortises to cut.

    I have a Delta attachment for my drill press. Some people have reported that they don't get good results with this, but I have nothing but good to say about it. Mine seems to cut a beautifully clean and square mortise. That's what I've been using mostly anymore. It makes, of course, a nice square mortise while the router makes a rounded-end mortise. I like square much better - with the round mortise you either have to make it square with a chisel or round off your tenon, either of which is a pain. I don't know if the attachment will work on your drill press. The diameter of the quill is important. You might want to contact Delta. Grizzly sells one for cheaper, but I haven't seen it and so I can't comment on the quality. Most of the Grizzly stuff is Chinese imported.... I honestly don't know where the Delta is made, but it's probably also an Asian import.

    I actually find that getting a perfectly accurate tenon is more difficult than getting a good mortise. I finally broke down and got a tenoning jig for the tablesaw that makes a nice and accurate tenon. But I think the fastest thing to do is to cut TWO mortises and use a floating tenon cut from the same species of wood. Not only is this faster, but you don't have to cut your pieces extra long to allow for the tenon! The floating tenons are made from scraps. The joint is every bit as strong as a traditional M&T.

    Good luck - have fun - be safe.
    Last edited by Andy_M; 06-02-2010, 12:16 AM.

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    • #3
      Re: Mortising help

      you might try craigs list. i got this delta as part of a CL buy:

      http://www.ridgidforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27452

      see the second pic in the 9th post of the above thread.

      if you know what to look for, there's no reason you can't get a similar type for around $150. and it does make creating mortises, and slots for jigs, much easier and more precise.
      there's a solution to every problem.....you just have to be willing to find it.

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      • #4
        Re: Mortising help

        I use my DP with a Forstner bit to hog out the bulk of the mortise then square it up with a chisel. I'd say socket firmers are a bit excessive, you could get away with a 90 degree corner chisel (not the small plastic wack-a-mole version) or a set of sash mortise chisels.

        It is right though that the sash mortise chisels will run around $200 for an adequate set, but keep your eye out at garage sales and on ebay, sashes slip through the cracks most of the time.

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        • #5
          Re: Mortising help

          Originally posted by Liver guy View Post
          As I have wandered into woodworking I have found that one of the most time-consuming but beneficial techniques is mortise-and-tenon joinery.
          Welcome to the craft. If furniture is your goal, the M&T is going to come into the picture sooner rather than later.

          I have seen jigs for routing mortises with a router, but have yet to try to make one (and the setup for these seems cumbersome).
          Really no less cumbersome than any other machine you may use to setup for M&T. You will find that most of your time will be spent in setting up for a particular process (drilling, cutting, joinery...). The act of creating the mortise is quick. Measuring and setting up is where the time is invested.

          I have also seen mortising attachments for the drill press, but do not know how well they work. I also do not know if such an attachment is available for my drill press (recent model 10" Craftsman benchtop). Does anyone have any suggestions? I appreciate any thoughts on this, even if it is the "shut up and use your chisel" advice.
          You drill press may be a little under sized/powered to be cutting mortises. A further concern is that cutting mortises with a drill press can put more stress on the drill press than it was designed to handle. Drilling holes is one thing, driving a mortising bit with the DP may prove to be a tall order. The handle on a mortiser should be an indication of the kind of forces involved in cutting a mortise.

          Like many things in this hobby/craft/vocation, it isn't cheap. A mortiser will quickly earn its keep.

          The other step would be to hog out the mortises with a forstner bit and square it up with a chisel and corner chisel.

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          • #6
            Re: Mortising help

            For the number of M&Ts I do on a regular basis, I almost always use the router table to make the mortises. I had a dedicated mortiser but I just didn't use it that often so it spent most of it's time under the workbench gathering dust until I sold it to a friend who makes furniture and uses it a lot more than I ever did.

            Honestly, even though I've got a Whiteside corner chisel, it's usually easier to round over the corners of the tenon so it fits into the rounded-corner mortises left by the router. So long as they don't show, who cares? Plus, if you're doing loose-tenon construction, making rounded-corner tenon stock by the boatload is simple on the router table.

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