Reply by John

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Posted on How do you mortise?

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47 posts in 2070 days

#1 posted 12-15-2012 06:55 AM

I enjoy working by hand if there aren’t a ton of them to do. Deep (over 1.5”) ones get bored out with brace and Irwin bit, followed by chisels to clean up and square. Some small ones just chopped out with pig sticker mortise chisel. I find I can more easily do precise, clean work by hand, mainly because it’s a lot of hassle to design templates and jigs for machinery to keep it under control. It’s also a lot easier to do angled or shaped (eg tapered) mortises by hand. I like to say, if I can figure out how to lay it out and mark it, I can cut it.

I will frequently do the drilling with a forstner bit in the drill press for medium-sized mortises. The depth stop makes for consistently flat bottoms, but that doesn’t really matter most of the time.

If I have a bunch of the same type, I use a plunge router with upcut bit, using a template guide bushing and a 1/4 hardboard template.

Rounding off the tenons is definitely faster than squaring up machine-cut mortises with a chisel, but it just feels wrong. I think it’s slightly weaker, too, but probably not in any remotely meaningful way.

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