Mortise machine.......other options?

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Forum topic by steve2916 posted 10-18-2009 04:43 AM 1681 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 2567 days

10-18-2009 04:43 AM

I’ve gotton to a point on a new project I’m currently working on & I’m stuck trying to decide if i should spend all the money for a mortise machine. I don’t currently have a plunge router….do have 2 p.c. 690’s. I thought i could have gotton by without one but this project is a arched headboard that will recieve slats that need to be morticed into the curved part of the headboard. I could use the kreg jig for it but i want to “step this up” somewhat. Any ideas? Thanks again everyone!!

20 replies so far

View thiel's profile


374 posts in 2716 days

#1 posted 10-18-2009 06:46 AM

I waited a long time to get a mortiser. As soon as I got one, I realized that all this time I’d been avoiding the “bread and butter” joint in woodworking. I’d say get one—you’ll use it a ton and never regret it.

-- Laziness minus Apathy equals Efficiency

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5108 posts in 2618 days

#2 posted 10-18-2009 07:03 AM

Steve: The suggestion I have may or may not work,cause of the curve on the headboard. But—If you have a drill press and a set of Forstner bits, you could cut the mortises on the d.p., and then clean them out with a good sharp chizel. You may have to rig up a jig or fence for alignment of the mortises. But it beats the alternative. Hope this helps a little.

-- At my age, an "all--nighter" is not having to get up and pee...!!!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17577 posts in 3099 days

#3 posted 10-18-2009 08:47 AM

I cut them by hand, but I’m not real good at it yet. It takes a little practice.

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

View TomHintz's profile


207 posts in 2822 days

#4 posted 10-18-2009 09:08 AM

I’m another that put off getting a mortiser for way too long and then broke down, got one and that was followed by the kicking myself for not doing it sooner period.
Cutting mortise and tenons on a curved piece can be tricky (cut them before cutting the ac if you can…) but lots of things can be done pretty easily if you stop and think about how to get it done. One of the things I love about woodworking is how it lets your mind overcome problems.

-- Tom Hintz,

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3363 days

#5 posted 10-18-2009 01:23 PM

I have a mortiser and it is a very useful tool. However, if you have to choose between a mortiser and a plunge router, I’d get the router. You can make good mortises with a router, and you can use it in areas that might not be accessible by a mortiser. I’ve used both and while I like my mortiser, the plunge router is more flexible.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Sawdust2's profile


1467 posts in 3511 days

#6 posted 10-18-2009 01:42 PM

I agree with Russel.
You don’t list where you live. You might search LJ for other members near you. One may have a mortiser.
It always helps to develop friendships with other woodworkers. I have a friend with a mortiser and a friend with a wide belt sander.


-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2758 days

#7 posted 10-18-2009 08:47 PM

If you buy a mortiser you will have to give it room in the shop. I agree that a router would be much better investment. It is very easy to hand cut mortises but only if you know the secret of doing this efficiently. I learned how to do this from an article in Woodworker’s Journal magazine a few years age written by the old school English woodworker Ian Kirby. I have been grateful ever since. Here’s how he does it.

You mark up the mortise with a width the same as the chisel you will be using, then put your chisel vertical about 1/2” from the middle with the flat side of the chisel pointed towards the middle. Then you bang it good with a wooden mallet. Now spin chisel around so the flat side is pointed in the direction of the first cut and about 1” away and bang it again. You now have a “V” shaped hole, and you probably understand the technique.

Continue in this fashion working your way out towards the ends of the mortise, but about 1/16” shy of the end. Now start all over again towards the middle and repeat the original sequence again. Keep repeating until you are at the depth you want. You shouldn’t have to clean up the mortise sides much. You will have to finish chopping or shaving the 1/16” you left at the ends.

It is best to have a mortising chisel which is thicker and therefore stiffer and without tapered sides. However, I don’t have any, so I use my bench chisels for this. I have done some pretty deep mortises this way, up to 2-1/2”, but that was in pine. a 1” mortise in hardwood should pose no problem.

Good luck with your project. If you try this let me know how it worked out for you.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View steve2916's profile


6 posts in 2567 days

#8 posted 10-18-2009 09:04 PM

Wow thanks for all the wonderful information everyone!!!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17577 posts in 3099 days

#9 posted 10-18-2009 10:27 PM

If I were going to quit hand cuting them, I’d go with the plunge router because of more versitility and lack of space ror another dedicated tool.

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

View SKFrog16's profile


661 posts in 2624 days

#10 posted 10-18-2009 11:57 PM

I guess I’ll have to jump in here too. I also prefer a plunge router . I like tools that can multi-task. Small shop calls for versatility. Space is a premium you can ill afford to lose.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View gerrym526's profile


266 posts in 3232 days

#11 posted 10-21-2009 12:16 AM

Porter Cable makes a plunge base for the 690 router unit-I have one. It’s much cheaper than buying a mortiser, and works well if you create a template to use with guide bushings in the router.

-- Gerry

View steve2916's profile


6 posts in 2567 days

#12 posted 10-21-2009 12:30 AM

Thanks for the input there gerry, I did recently find out about buying that plunge router base for the 690. Please excuse me but I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “create a template to use with guide bushings in the router”. Does that have anything to do with mortises?

View AaronK's profile


1438 posts in 2888 days

#13 posted 10-21-2009 01:25 AM

you dont even really need a plunge router. i’ve seen mortises done with a fixed base as long as the two ends of the mortise were drilled out first (presumably on a drill press).

although i’d recommend getting a plunge router (or at least a plunge base to fit your existing motor). it’d be faster that way, plus you can use it for lots of other useful things as has been said already.

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2758 days

#14 posted 10-21-2009 11:38 AM

If you’re buying a router, it might be a good idea to buy one that has a fixed base and an interchangeable plunge base. I know De Walt makes one, and I assume others do as well. It adds a lot of flexibility to your routing options.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View RockyTopScott's profile


1184 posts in 2902 days

#15 posted 10-21-2009 12:16 PM

A plunge router and Mortise-Pal gives me good results

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

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