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Mortise machine or not?

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  • Mortise machine or not?

    Hi all,

    This weekend I spent way too much time chopping out a couple of mortises using my Ridgid drill press with the 1/2" mortising chisel. The mortises were 2 1/4" deep by 3 1/2" long by 1/2" wide - not typical of what I normally do in my hobby/DIY shop. BTW, I have 4 more to do (I don't know if the chisel will last). I am sure my technique was less than stellar...

    My question is this - would a dedicated mortise machine do a substantially better job than my current setup? I would be looking for improved setup time, less time to actually create the mortises, and a better finished product.

    If you think a dedicated mortise machine would be the way to go, let me know why and also what brand you would suggest.

    Thanks in advance for any and all opinions... [img]tongue.gif[/img]
    Of course I can build you one of those - I just need a [new tool]!

  • #2
    I feel your pain. After a somewhat similar situation which turned out less-than-stellar mortises, I purchased a Shop Fox mortiser and have been much happier.



    • #3
      As an alternative, I use a 1/2" solid carbide upcut spiral router but. I have made 2" deep mortises and that is about the limit but you may be able to find a slightly longer bit or clean out the remaining 1/4" with the drill press. Typically my mortises are less than 2" deep so the router and guide works great


      • #4
        I would say, IMHO, that naturally a dedicated mortise machine is the best way to go. Of course a lot depends on how often you need it. If this type of jointery is used a lot, go for the dedicated machine.

        If only used occasionally, buy the mortise atachment for your drill press. I picked mine up at HD for around $32.00 and it works great for me.

        I just don't use mortises that often so I can't justify a dedicated machine, plus the fact of the space to put it in my shop/garage. If I could just talk my darling wife into parking her car outside....the possibilities are endless.



        • #5
          Thanks for all the is neat to be able to get educated opinions on stuff like this.

          I like the spiral upcut router bit suggestion - gonna give that a try.

          Of course I can build you one of those - I just need a [new tool]!


          • #6
            The issue with the router is to make accurate enough jigs that put the mortise where you want and support the router base.

            I can tell you I picked out my drill press because it came with a free mortising attachment. What a waste. Took forever to set up and the fence/hold-down system was really cheesy.

            I bought a dedicated benchtop mortiser and couldn't be happier. I bought a Jet, which sorely lacked in any good instructions or tips. Delta also has a good reputation. There's been some discussion about models that have greater speed, but I think that's unimportant, since the limiting factor is more due to the chisel than the drill---you come down too fast and you can tweek about any unit.


            • #7
              I agree with Daveferg, I too have a mortiser(Delta) and am very pleased with the ease of use. Of course, like any other tool, you have to make sure the table and fence are square.


              • #8
                To those of you with dedicated mortisers:

                I looked into getting one about 3 months ago, but ran into issues with the stock sizes that they can handle. Most were limited to under 3" stock and the biggest I could find (in my price range) could only handle 3 1/4" stock. Does anyone know of a reasonably priced unit that can put a mortise in the center of a 5 1/2" square piece of stock? (Even though my drill press mortising kit is a pain, it can do these cuts)

                Thanks for any info you can give!!


                • #9
                  The Shop Fox will mortise to the center of an 8" board. It seems to me to be the best benchtop out there, dollar for dollar.


                  • #10
                    I purchased and used the Ridgid Mortis attachment. Then I did some researce, and bought the Shop Fox bench top mortiser, only because I could not afford the full sized General. Only problem with the shop fox is it turns 3450 rmp. Bits over heat way too fast. All my bits are now blue. Opt for one that turns 1750 rpm. But other than that, it's a great mortiser. Piviots on the base to do work on board ends.
                    John E. Adams<br /><a href=\"\" target=\"_blank\"></a>


                    • #11
                      The measurement that I need to be over 5 1/2" is from the bottom of a 1/2" bit/chisel to the table. What is the bit-table clearance on the Shop Fox?


                      • #12
                        dusthead, have you looked at busybee?
                        Busy Bee Tools
                        MORTISER MACHINE 1HP CSA
                        Item No: B2489
                        Bench Mortiser, 1 HP
                        Quick hold downs and hold in
                        Motor: 1,000 RPM, 110V, 8 Amp.
                        Max. chisel and drill size: 1" - 5" travel
                        Max. stock height: 6"
                        Cast iron sliding table: 12" x 26"
                        Cast iron fence: 3 1/2" x 26"
                        Table travel: 20" Rack and pinion
                        Gross weight: 83kg.
                        Carton size: 36" x 20" x 13"
                        Complete with: Extra Drill Chuck, Arbor, Bushings for Mortising Chisel & Tools


                        • #13
                          Go to to see the Shop Fox specs.


                          • #14
                            I guess my problem is that I can't find a 1/2" mortise chisel/bit that is less than 6 1/4" long. The Busy Bee 1/2hp model has about 10.5" clearance from the bottom of the chuck to the table, by the time the bit/chisel are inserted you can only fit 4 1/4" stock under it.

                            My drill press is working for now, but if I have to make many more of these columns I'll have to find something better.

                            Thanks to everyone for the input.


                            • #15
                              The 1 HP Busybee would do it but kinda hard to swallow $425