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PM 719T Hollow Chisel Mortiser Review

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Review by JBrow posted 01-21-2016 02:18 AM 6088 views 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
PM 719T Hollow Chisel Mortiser Review PM 719T Hollow Chisel Mortiser Review No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Problem. I prefer the mortise and tenon joint. Most of my projects join ¾” thick stock. I am not one to create a mortise by chopping with a chisel, drilling a series of holes that are then squared up, or setting up the router – I am just not patient enough.

For years, I used a mortise attachment on my Craftsman floor model drill press. It was a constant struggle to use the attachment and get centered mortises plus cutting mortises took the drill press out of commission until they were all cut. Nonetheless, that was the way I did it for years.

Last year I decided to upgrade to a floor model hollow chisel mortiser. I concluded that there was simply too much flex in the Drill Press to get accurate mortises. That led me to a dedicated hollow chisel mortiser.

Research and Decision. I searched the internet for various models. Given the relatively small price differential price between the various models, I decided to go with the Powermatic 719T Hollow Chisel Mortiser. But I had some concerns.

On one hand, I purchased the PM 66 Table Saw back in the late 1990s when Powermatic displayed the made in the USA flag on their machines. It still works like new. The specs on the 719T included a lot of cast iron and an apparently good lateral table moving mechanism.

On the other hand, my understanding is that Powermatic moved most, if not all, of their manufacturing to Taiwan. I really did not know whether the company continued to uphold their quality standards. Additionally I read one rather critical internet review about the 719T. The complaints I recall were that the adjusting hand wheels were made of plastic and the table stops and material stops would drift with use. Apart from this review, one concern I had was whether the vise-like clamping mechanism that holds material in place when the hollow chisel is withdrawn from the stock would cause damage.

An additional purchase, after giving consideration to other manufacturers’, was a set of hollow chisels and bits. I elected to purchase the Powermatic chisels and bits for no other reason than a presumption that these would perform well. I use the ¼” chisel and bit the most by far. Lastly, I picked up hollow chisel sharpening cones from Rockler.

Receipt and Setup. The machine came in two boxes, if I recall correctly. One box contained the metal base and the other box contained everything else. No damage occurred in shipping and components were tightly packed in the boxes. Assembly was straightforward. There were no problems assembling the unit, which I did myself. I followed the included instructions, which I found to be written clearly.

The base and upper mortiser head were laid on the garage floor and attached, using foam packing from the 719T box to hold the upper body in position. The upper body, made with cast iron and heavy steel, had significant weight about it. I built a platform of two layers of ¾” plywood set atop a 2” x 4” frame, on which I mounted 4 heavy duty locking swivel caster. I attached the metal base to the plywood platform with casters while the assembly was still on the garage floor.

Standing the machine upright did not go so well. The casters were locked; the base was raised with blocking; and standoffs from a wall were positioned to keep every in place as the unit was pivoted off the floor to its normal upright position. Both my lifting helper and I thought we were good to go. As the machine was raised it unexpectedly began scooting across the floor. We chased it while holding it off the floor until somehow the unit came to a stop short of the wall. At that point we were able to finish standing the 719T upright. Other than a minor scrape to my helper’s finger, nothing was damaged. After a thanks and a sorry about your luck, I and sent my helper on his way. I was not damaged.

The MDF table, stop rods, and handles were attached. The table was squared perpendicular to the line of travel of the mortising head. This was a bit tedious due to the table tilt mechanism (discussed below), but was accomplished in a few minutes.

Even though the motor can operate at 120 volts or 240 volts, I elected to retain the included cord and plug and operate the machine at 120 volts.

Fit, Finish, and Out of the Box Operation. I found the mortising head was firmly attached to the dovetail ways while permitting smooth but stiff travel with no slop. The table was likewise firmly attached to it base. The hand wheels moved the table side to side and front to back without any slop. Sufficient access was provided for changing chisels and bits. It was clear that some time was spent to dial-in the dovetail ways and the table lateral adjustments before the machine was shipped.

The 719T included a Chuck Extension Adapter and tools required to install the adapter. It also came with the tools required to change the chisel and bit and to tilt the table. I installed and then later un-installed the Chuck Extension Adapt with no problems.

The base cabinet was an unexpected surprise. It has a nice spring load locking latch. A mid-shelf is welded in place dividing the interior of the cabinet. Some holes are drilled into the shelf on the sides and back that fit included tools and a number of chisels (not included). High-density foam (perhaps ¼” thick) is adhered to the shelf and the shelf has a front metal lip. The base is open to the floor.

Recalling the negative review I read, I grabbed my magnet and stuck it to the table-moving wheels – they are made of steel – though indeed they look like they could be plastic. I looked at the set screws with a floating butterfly tabs (for grabbing during tightening and loosening), but failed to see how these would give way when setting table and material stops. But then, when I use stops anywhere in the shop, I tend to avoid slamming things into the stops. I figure any stop can give way with enough applied force. I have had no problems with the stops staying in place.

Performance. One would think that this machine would have received quite a workout over the course of a year. Due to extensive additional shop upgrades and life just happening, my experience with the 719T is limited. However, in the couple dozen mortises I have cut, the machine does exactly what I hoped and expected it to do.

The mortises are centered and the walls perpendicular. When I center ¼” mortises, I cut the mortise with each face against the fence. Once the mortise is initially cut referenced off one face, very little material remains when the stock is flipped around, referencing off the opposite face. I was concerned that the machine or, more likely, the chisel would deflect and simply follow the already cut face of the mortise. I was pleasantly surprised. I found no deflection, but a true pairing of the opposite mortise face. The 719T follows vertical very well and the Powermatic chisel does not deflect.

The hold down clamping mechanism has yet to damage the walnut into which I have cut mortises. It holds the stock firmly as the chisel is drawn out of the stock. I have not mounted a secondary face to the clamping face, although provision for one is provided. However, if working with softer woods, a softer face with applied sandpaper mounted to the clamp face would probably be a good idea.

Problems. The only negatives, which for me are minor, are:

1) The table tilt mechanism is simply a bolt through a heavy duty curved slotted metal plate that attaches to the table and held in place by a bolt seated into the cast iron base of the upper mortiser assembly. The bolt holds the table firmly in position with no problem. However, should I build a chair or otherwise need to adjust the angle of the mortise; it will be difficult to dial the table in to that exact angle. An angle scale is provided which will get you close. Angling the table can be done, but I would have to fight with gravity and dive deep to find enough patience. But 95%+ of the mortises I cut are with the table at 90 degrees. Even with a well-designed easy to tilt table tilting mechanism, I would probably use a ramp block anyway. So for me, since the table stays at 90 degrees, I am happy.

2) The supplied material stop rods are long enough for positioning most mortises. However, another material stop mechanism would be required if the mortise were further than about 33”from the end of the stock. I will pick up a ½” diameter length of metal rod should I encounter this problem. The material stop mounting system will accommodate any ½” diameter rod with no special work required – just swap out a rod to extend the stop.

Conclusion. The 719T is an expensive shop upgrade when compared to the relatively much lower cost of cutting mortises in alternative ways. It takes up precious floor space. So it is not a tool for everyone.

But it does what I expected it to do, and very well. It takes very little time to build that face frame and get near perfectly flush mortise and tenon faces consistently. I am pleased with its performance at this time, and believe that, with sharp chisels and bits, that I will cut that 1000th mortise accurately and with ease. I recommend the 719T to anyone who may be considering an hollow chisel mortiser.




View JBrow's profile

JBrow

1202 posts in 638 days



6 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

5328 posts in 2531 days


#1 posted 01-21-2016 04:16 AM

I have the JFM Jet floor mortiser, which is nearly identical to the 719. It actually uses the same castings, sans the tilting feature. I agree with your review, it is a great tool. I have put some miles on mine, and it has held up great. It requires about 50% the effort needed to run a benchtop mortiser.

I made a few upgrades to mine including a sandpaper backed vise block, and a tool-free chisel knob.
http://lumberjocks.com/pintodeluxe/blog/46209

These mortisers are great because with the included reducers, and extender they accept almost any hollow chisel bit. I initially thought I would be limited to Jet / Powermatic chisels, but have had good luck with most brands. With my old benchtop unit, I was breaking bits left and right. Interestingly, the same bits now work much better. I think the clamp on the floor mortisers does a better job of immobilizing the workpiece which prevents the bit from flexing.

And that sliding table, wow is that nice.

Thanks for the review.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Pete504's profile

Pete504

24 posts in 3055 days


#2 posted 01-21-2016 11:42 AM

Very good review, thanks!

View WoodNSawdust's profile

WoodNSawdust

1417 posts in 895 days


#3 posted 01-21-2016 11:58 AM

Thanks for the review. It sounds like Powermatic is standing up to its reputation.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

1202 posts in 638 days


#4 posted 01-21-2016 02:52 PM

pintodeluxe,

Back in the day, I installed a ¼” chisel in the drill press. It broke almost right away. I just did not know better at the time, it was a cheap chisel from AMT (if they are still in business) and this was years ago. I just assumed a ¼” chisel simply did not have enough metal to really work so I switched to a 3/8” chisel in the drill press, which worked fine – thin walled mortises in ¾” stock, but the chisel did not break.

Now that I think about, I wonder that if, in addition to a poor hold down system, whether the flex in the drill press, and perhaps the less beefy columns in some benchtop mortisers, also add to the stresses on the chisel. If so, the hold down system and the strength of the column are critical components on the mortiser.

Nice setup on your mortiser. Your comments give me further reason to believe that my mortiser will continue to just keep on working.

View runswithscissors's profile (online now)

runswithscissors

2490 posts in 1743 days


#5 posted 01-22-2016 08:03 AM

I prefer 5/16” mortices for 3/4” stock. I think the tenon is stronger doing it that way, and the remaining walls of the mortice are substantial enough.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View OggieOglethorpe's profile

OggieOglethorpe

1276 posts in 1828 days


#6 posted 01-23-2016 04:02 PM

^^ Ditto on the 5/16” mortises. Since you’re not hand chopping, the sides can be a bit thinner without risk of damaging the faces. I think the 1/4 in 3/4 is a holdover from hand tools.

I’ve had a 719T for about 10 years, and concur fully with the OP’s review. The bulk of these things matter, and make this machine far more pleasurable to use than a drill press attachment or router. Mortising becomes relaxing and fun, I’m sad when I’m done!

I don’t use my 719 as often as I used to, as I also have a Domino. The Domino is faster overall, as there are no tenons to cut or fit, but the 719 is unbeatable with through mortises and when I need traditional M&T construction, and a real pleasure to use.

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