All Replies on Downsides to using a mortising attachment in a drill press?

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Downsides to using a mortising attachment in a drill press?

by jonah
posted 05-20-2009 12:44 AM

32 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


115380 posts in 3089 days

#1 posted 05-20-2009 12:47 AM

Hey Jonah
My experience with a drill press attachment was any thing but good . The mortising attachment would keep coming loose. it takes a fair amount of pressure to mortise and I think it’s difficult for a bolt on attachment to hold up to that. I think I’ve seen Mortisers for around $ 175 at ether or both Harbor Freight or Grizzly . I don’t have experience with either one of those brands but maybe others hear have. Even though there more expensive they work better in my experience.
Welcome to Ljs

-- Custom furniture

View knotscott's profile


7358 posts in 2888 days

#2 posted 05-20-2009 12:47 AM

A mortiser requires a fair amount of leverage from the handle when plunging the chisels into the piece. You can’t get much from a standard DP handle. The mortisers have much longer handles. If you don’t do a lot of mortises, the $100 HF mortiser works pretty well with some mods to the hold down device.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View jonah's profile


687 posts in 2811 days

#3 posted 05-20-2009 12:58 AM

Thanks for the replies. My brother actually has that Harbor Freight mortiser, and he says he regrets ever buying it. He’s had nothing but problems and hasn’t even used it more than a few times. I generally like to stay away from those kinds of tools.

What about making some kind of clamp-on handle to increase the amount of leverage on the drill press? With a little ingenuity, it shouldn’t be hard.

View a1Jim's profile


115380 posts in 3089 days

#4 posted 05-20-2009 01:01 AM

Hey Jonah
Take a look at Grizzly I have had a lot of there tools(but not the motiser) and they work great . the grizzly is around $225. Some times it’s hard to find good tools inexpensively. Maybe You can find a used one. I have had a delta for years and its worked well and I have a tilting head floor model also. adding leverage is only half the problem, the other half is to have the mortiser stay on the drill press. If you can’t make a real mortiser work in your budget go for the router option.

-- Custom furniture

View TomHintz's profile


207 posts in 2910 days

#5 posted 05-20-2009 08:34 AM

I firmly believe that drill press mortising attachments were put on this earth strictly for those who want to hate themselves for whatever reason. I know there will be someone who likes them or has had success with one. I also know that there is a fellow who (eventually) made a beautiful dresser using only a pocket knife. However, I know of no tool that is so close to universal dislike as is the drill press mortising atachment.

Drill Press Mortising Attachment Review

-- Tom Hintz,

View TheDane's profile


5016 posts in 3175 days

#6 posted 05-20-2009 08:17 PM

I bought a drill press mortising attachment ($80) a couple of years ago … tried it out, and returned it. Couldn’t get enough leverage to cut at 1/2” x 2” deep mortise in red oak, and it was a pain to get it aligned and keep it that way.

I bought a Jet JBM5 on sale ($230), and have been happy with the results. I did find that using a blade lube (e.g. OptiCut XL) on my hollow chisels and augers seems to improve performance.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View PurpLev's profile


8524 posts in 3161 days

#7 posted 05-20-2009 08:46 PM

if you’re planning on doing lots of mortises and are on a strict budget – stick to the router for now, while keeping an eye on craigslist and ebay – every once in a while you’ll see a Jet or similar mortiser for sale at $100-$200 range.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View jimp's profile


208 posts in 3273 days

#8 posted 05-20-2009 09:37 PM

I have to second TheDane and TomHintz opinions. The guys that I bought my used drill press from threw in his Delta Mortising attachment (I now know why). I have used it on a handful of projects. I hate using it. It is a pain to setup. Since you don’t have a lot of leverage, it is hard to cut a mortise. When I have enough money or a project with a lot of mortises, I’m going to get a real mortiser.

Good luck.

-- - Jim, Carroll, OH

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17748 posts in 3188 days

#9 posted 05-21-2009 05:20 AM

Skarp, thanks for the link. That guy is good :-)) strainght to the point, not trying to be a comedian when he isn’t funny.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View woodbutcher's profile


592 posts in 3678 days

#10 posted 05-21-2009 06:23 AM

I have used the delta mortising attachment on a delta drill press before and it worked fine. You do have to spend a little time setting it up. My Delta drill press is a large floor model and it did provide the necessary leverage needed for this attachment. All the tools I use in the shop require set up however and constant checking for precisionm however. I have recently purchased a dedicated mortising machine however, because I do a lot of mortising and wanted a dedicated machine. It takes just about as much time to set my dedicated mortising machine up for all the different size and depth of mortises as it does to set up the delta attachment on a drill press. If you have a drill press that is capable of handling the necessary leverage required for the attachment they will work fine. I used mine for years until I could justify getting a dedicated machine which does the same job. Both get the job done equally well once you start pulling the handle. I’m not sure that this helps much, but it is my best observations after having done this both ways.

Ken McGinnis

-- woodbutcher north carolina

View jonah's profile


687 posts in 2811 days

#11 posted 05-23-2009 01:30 PM

Thanks everyone for the information. I think I will wait and save my money for a decent mortiser. I don’t cut enough of them to really be bothered by doing it with the router, and I could use the excuse to come up with a jig for holding pieces to easily rout out mortises.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3257 days

#12 posted 05-23-2009 05:26 PM

Jonah, I have a floor model, 1 hp drill press that I made into a dedicated mortiser about 10 years ago. I added a sliding vise, which holds the wood and is easily adjustable. I also took the handles off and installed one 3/8” all thread rod, with a 1/2” copper pipe over it. This gives me plenty of leverage. I had looked at mortisers a few years ago and it was cheaper to buy another floor model drill press, so I did that. I like the ability to mortise into any thickness of material, I can even punch square holes in the end of 42” pieces of stock. I can control the drill speed also with this machine. I use this set up all of the time and have punched 1,000’s of mortises with it. You may do better with a mortiser, but I believe they can be just as fussy as a drill press for set up. That’s my $0.02 worth.

View jonah's profile


687 posts in 2811 days

#13 posted 05-25-2009 01:03 PM

That drill press is a heck of a lot beefier than my benchtop POS, though. Nice to hear someone has had some success though.

View Burle's profile


1 post in 1856 days

#14 posted 12-26-2011 09:11 PM

Jonah. Were it not for the fact that the chuck head of my drill press keeps falling off, and the morticing attachment I have is not as “Universal” as they claim, I’d be happily morticing myself into oblivion right now. The clamp of the attachment is just long enough that I cant engage the drill bit into the chuck, and when I make allowances for that, the chuck head keeps falling off the drill press shaft. All I have managed to accomplish in the last 2 hours is discovering a strong desire to drink. Im going to check out the Grizzly site that A1Jim has suggested, as under 300 bucks is the cheapest Ive seen them so far. Like you, I dont do alot of morticing but when I do I like them to be crisp and square. Perhaps a dedicated morticer is the way to go, even though its a pricey item. Maybe checking eBay or Amazon for used ones is an option as well.

View Jim55's profile


140 posts in 1579 days

#15 posted 09-28-2012 08:51 PM

Ok, I am brand new here. But I have this to contribute.

I see on this and other topics and sites people denigrating HF while extolling the virtues of Grizzly & other lower/mid grade machines. You all need to start looking closer at what you’re paying for.

I just recently purchased a 14” bandsaw for $199. The Grizzly saw sells for $369 or some near such.
They are one and the same machine! The only difference from the one at HF was the stand and that the switch was located in different places.

I have found this to be true of many different machines and brands, up to and including “Jet.” Many times, people are paying to or three times the price for a machine that rolled out of the same Chinese factory as Harbor Freight’s. Usually only paint colors and a few minor cosmetic differences Differentiate.
The best thing about HF machines is to buy cheap and add a few upgrades to make the equal of better machines for less cost.

Obviously, that is not true of all machines and some machines from HF are crap. Like any other significant purchases, research will pay dividends.

Does all this mean I buy only HF? No. I research what is available to find what will best suit my needs and then find the best source/price.
Just my .oh2

In keeping with this topic, I have a floor standing drill press but, from what I’m reading, it would not be a good candidate for a mortising attachment. So, considering I don’t do many right now, I will stick with ye olde chisel.

View crank49's profile


3987 posts in 2483 days

#16 posted 09-28-2012 10:28 PM

I had a spare drill press and I ran across a brand new Delta mortising attachment on clearence at Lowes for $45. I permanently mounted it on the DP with custom shims and epoxy. Added a Palmgren cross slide vise to hold my workpiece. this setup works pretty well.

I would definately NOT recommend the attachment if I only had one Drill press.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7249 posts in 2426 days

#17 posted 09-28-2012 11:36 PM

Please understand that I am not trying to rub anything in, however I am very glad to hear that these mortising attachments are not as good as proclaimed. OK, I must be one of the few who, after listening to you all, to look for another solution. And in that sense, I thank you.

I ended up building a router based horizontal mortising machine that makes drilling mortises a piece of cake, a piece of perfect repeatable cake to be precise. I did shift to floating tenons, an easy transition, but that is just icing on the cake. With this machine there is no more brute force involved in thrusting the mortising chisel down into the wood. You can take much easier passes and cuts until the mortise is as you want it.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Garzzo's profile


5 posts in 1584 days

#18 posted 09-30-2012 03:30 AM

For what it’s worth I have a cheap drill press and bought a decent mortiser attachment. Expected little , but I was surprised just how easily it went through my white oak board. Have not done a lot on it yet, but it made a great mortise with no issues.

View Dophi's profile


27 posts in 2337 days

#19 posted 10-10-2012 04:31 PM

Finding this topic was timely and very informative. I was looking at mortise attachment kits for my drill press. Other research had indicated it was not the best move and this posting has finalised my decision. I’m considering buying a used machine to start. Does anyone have any expereince with or knowledge of the Craftex Bench Top Mortiser? Are there other brands I should consider? Also, would you give me some pointers as to what I should be watching for in buying a second hand unit?

View Hoosier25's profile


18 posts in 1639 days

#20 posted 10-10-2012 07:52 PM

Unless you’re doing thru mortise, use your plunge router with Mortise Pal. Faster and better mortise.
With mortise pal you can produce loose tennon joinery very accurately.
I recommend it highly, about $200 plus router bits.

-- Roger

View Dophi's profile


27 posts in 2337 days

#21 posted 10-10-2012 11:55 PM

That certainly is an impressive piece of equipment Roger. I watched a number of video reviews. Since I don’t own a plunge router, that would definitely add to the cost of selecting this option. I know I’ll end up buying a plunge router sooner or later so perhaps I’ll make it sooner. Thanks for the heads-up.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7249 posts in 2426 days

#22 posted 10-11-2012 12:06 AM

Wow… You all are purportedly looking for the downsides of a drill press mortiser and yet you do not even recognize the possibilities of a router based horizontal mortising machine. Wake up folks! This truly is a valid alternative that can out perform that “old tried and true”. Am I missing something here? I truly thought the OP wanted to know the DOWNSIDES of sticking with the old.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View MonteCristo's profile


2098 posts in 1701 days

#23 posted 10-13-2012 02:32 AM

IMO these attachments are useless, maybe OK for little itsy-bitsy motises but otherwise a good way to trash a drill press. You need lots of torque and your ordinary DP was never intended for this. I made the mistake of buying one some years back and ended up throwing it in the junk pile.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Purrmaster's profile


914 posts in 1605 days

#24 posted 10-14-2012 06:30 AM

To put my two cents in, I generally like Harbor Freight as well. The stuff I’ve gotten from them has usually been fine. I haven’t noticed any reliability problems with Harbor Freight tools. They do tend to lack the bells and whistles of other brands. And sometimes those bells and whistles can be important.

Has anyone else purchased the Harbor Freight mortiser? I’ve been considering getting it down the road and I’ve generally read good things about it.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2435 days

#25 posted 10-14-2012 09:25 AM

I have the HF mortiser. I don’t use it that much although it does work okay when I do. Could use a little more powerful motor.
I also have a Delta DP attachment that due to it’s shape would not even make a good boat anchor. It was limited for size on my small D/P and I had to buy a new “quill” collar to fit my Ridgid d/p(grizzley sells them) too much fuss to fool with.
If I didn’t already have the mortiser,I would give serious attention to a horizontal router like Mike suggests.

-- Life is good.

View robscastle's profile


3444 posts in 1716 days

#26 posted 04-20-2013 06:15 AM

very interesting reading guys, I have three mortising drill attachments here, I have had them for over 20 years and never used them.
It was only last week my sons and I were cleaning out “junk” and they appeared out of the sawdust.
I thought they had been “chucked long ago”

I was considering buying a attachment and using them, but will now evaluate the possibility of ever using them for a worthwhile project so to justify the purchase.

The odds are not looking good (knowing they have never been used for the last 20 years) and then added to the situation I don’t want to buy a tool that may disappoint and only get used just to see how they work..

Will keep you posted.

Thanks for being part of the discussion.

Robert Brennan

-- Regards Robert

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1244 posts in 1622 days

#27 posted 04-20-2013 10:39 AM

Don’t forget, you can still use the same drill press with a high quality bit to hog out the mortises without any special attachments. When it comes time to chisel the walls, carefully work your way back to the line, and use a guide block to keep the chisel 90 degrees for the final swipes.

Once you do a few, you’ll be amazed at how much speed you’ll gain. A mortiser is a great tool, I have a very nice example, but you can do lots with what you already have.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 1585 days

#28 posted 04-20-2013 11:30 AM

A1jim ,”My experience with a drill press attachment was any thing but good ”

+10 here. Good DP. Well designed attachment (the delta) All the parts machined bad, set up takes forever… Johnah You can see this by now, but by the time you find the best quality DP and Attachment… you have spent the money to get the mortiser.

HM ,”you do not even recognize the possibilities of a router based horizontal mortising machine. Wake up folks! This truly is a valid alternative that can out perform that “old tried and true”

+10 to this, and the other replies that point out the the budget route is router based, and the budget route equals and many times even exceeds the dedicated machine…. BUT if box chisel bound, go dedicated machine.

-- Who is John Galt?

View stnich's profile


116 posts in 2437 days

#29 posted 04-20-2013 12:10 PM

I got a Delta Mortising attachment free when I purchased my Delta DP a few years ago. I have a nice old Jet DP that I plan on making into a dedicated mortiser just haven’t needed to do it yet. The DP was free and so was the mortiser it will be a win win when I get the time to set it up.

View Guyton Stone's profile

Guyton Stone

5 posts in 1316 days

#30 posted 06-29-2013 07:11 PM

I guess I will a mortising machine after all…

-- Guyton Stone

View geno1224's profile


2 posts in 1295 days

#31 posted 09-10-2013 09:13 PM

I’m in complete agreement with Jim55. Research, research and then research some more. I was recently looking to upgrade from my benchtop tablesaw when I saw a MasterForce “Contractors” saw at Menards for $500 on sale for $449. Later that same day I saw a Craftsman saw at Sears that looked very similar for $599. After much hemming and hawing I bought the one at Menards. When I got it home I grabbed the Owners Manual and went to Sears website and viewed the manual for their saw. Yup, same exact saw with different paint. The only difference in the manuals was the front cover. Does anybody know of any that are made in USA. I think 99% are made in China.


-- I had to grow old, I just never grew up

View BLeRg's profile


1 post in 1109 days

#32 posted 01-11-2014 10:49 PM

I bought a 34” Radial Floor Drill Press a few years ago. I’ve used it quite extensively for both wood and metal. There was no way I was ever going to plop down $300 for a dedicated MM. It would just be something to mostly take up a lot of space in my tiny little shop (one car garage). Unfortunately (until today) I couldn’t even find a M attachment, so I went to HF (where I got my RFDP for $250 clearance) and bought a 1/2” M chisel. I bought an oak board and 1” oak dowel from HD. I cut and glued the board up to make it thicker. My homemade M jig works well and adds a second depth stop. I can mount other accessories to the jig later as needed (such as my LED clamp light). I will add, however, that my RFDP does have larger handles than my bench top DP which I don’t use any more. I’ll probably turn the BTDP into a sanding grinding station.

I also have a HF Full Size Router Table with Router. I had to go through a few tables just to get enough parts to get a working one, but it was well worth the extra effort. I saved about $4000, and there’s a router in the table too!

If someone has the money and the room, they can have any machine they want. But in my case I’ll stick with my homemade wooden mortising jig. I will get the Delta, however, if I can’t find the other sizes of chisels this time around, because I only have HFs 1/2” one. If I had more size options, I could use my jig on smaller projects.

Given what I’ve heard about the Delta jig, I might use some temporary thread lock on the fastener. Possibly even a drop on the jig before installing the jig on the DP. Nothing wrong with a little glue. I glue everything. Even metal. Perhaps I could attach a depth stop and … nah. Not enough room on it.

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