|Review by Terry Burks||posted 02-06-2011 12:23 AM||12590 views||4 times favorited||12 comments|
After recently completing a project that required creating more than 20 mortises using a drill press and chisels, I decided it was time to seriously consider getting a bench top mortiser. After reading a number of reviews online, I visited my local Woodcraft store and looked at the Jet, Delta and Shop Fox models they had on display. Based on what I saw, discussions with the salesman, features and price, I decided that the Delta was the best they had. I was told that upcoming sales would bring the price down to about $250. I was not terribly impressed with the finish or quality of casting on any of these but the Delta was the best of the three.
I then visited Sears and looked over their offering and was pleasantly surprised at the quality, heft and finish of the unit. The online reviews by owners were all quite good as well. Craftsman is not my first choice in tool brands but I do have a Craftsman jobsite table saw that I have been very pleased with over the last 6 years.
With an online sale coupled with my Craftsman Club discount, the units retail price of $299. was brought down to $242. I ordered the unit online with pickup arranged at my local Sears store. It arrived within about 3 days of my order. The box was compact but weighed about 75 pounds. All components were well packed in styrofoam and wrapped in plastic. All parts were present and there was no damage out of the box.
All metal surfaces were coated in a light oil, obviously to prevent rusting during its’ overseas trip as the unit is manufactured in China. It was a bit messy cleaning off all of the oil but in retrospect a better option than having rusted parts.
My first take on the unit was that it was well built. The castings were clean and solid and the machined base was flat and smooth. The instruction manual was very well written and assembly instructions and photos were clear and easy to follow. The only annoying step in the assembly process was the requirement to attach the lift assist piston to the head/shaft assembly only to be instructed to disconnect it when the shaft is bolted to the base. I know this is done as a safety precaution to keep the motor/head assembly from crashing down on your hand as you lift it upright but a simple warning would have sufficed.
Assembly and setup took approx 60 minutes, not bad considering it was done in a garage at 10 o’clock at night in about 30 degree weather. I couldn’t wait to get it together and give it a try. The unit came with all tools needed for assembly/adjustments except for a wrench required to bolt the shaft/head unit to the base. Also included are 4 bits/chisels sized 1/2, 3/8, 5/16 & 1/4 inch as well as a 2 1/4 inch riser for increased capacity. The head unit may also be mounted to the base 180 degrees from normal to perform mortising of very large items.
Mounting the chisel/bits was easy as was squaring the chisel to the fence. My first mortises were in poplar and red oak and they cut cleanly with the red oak taking only slightly more effort than the poplar. I found the bits/chisels to be sharp out of the box and without any visible defects or burrs. I was very pleased with the cleanliness of the mortises they created.
One feature I really like is the fact the handle used to raise/lower the head is spring loaded and can be easily adjusted to allow for the greatest leverage and best position. This made it easy to get the leverage needed to drive through the wood. I have read some reviews of different mortisers where the reviewer complained of the effort required. I didn’t find this to be a problem, but then again, we’re men after all and that’s why God gave us some muscle. I gotta tell you the 30 seconds required to create a clean square mortise sure beats the 5 – 10 minutes required using a drill press and chisels. I look forward to the next project where many mortises are required.
-- Terry - Willis, Texas