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Best M&T jig for me

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Forum topic by dschlic1 posted 12-05-2015 10:18 PM 1759 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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dschlic1

331 posts in 1437 days


12-05-2015 10:18 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jig question joining

I am an amateur woodworker, working in my spare time out of my garage. I am finding that in nearly every project I make, I am using some type of mortise and tenon joint. Perhaps it is my obsession with accuracy, but I am finding it hard to get just the “right” fit. There are several reasons for this both with cutting the mortise and also cutting the tenon.

For this reason I am looking into jigs that will allow me to make more accurate joints. After doing some research I have come up with several categories of “M&T” joints:

1. Dowels. It appears that a well made dowel joint is almost as strong as a well made regular type of mortise and tenon. There are several high quality jigs, Jessem, DowelMax and Beadlock.
2. Loose tenon. There are a variety of tools and jigs for making loose tenon joints, ranging from shop made jigs to Festool Domino machines.
3. True mortise and tenon jigs. It appears that there are really two jig worthwhile: Leigh FMT and Trend MT/JIG.

I do not have space to store and use a mortising machine. I would like some advice as to which route to proceed. The cost of the Festool is out of my range. The Leigh Super FMT would be at my upper end.


20 replies so far

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waho6o9

7179 posts in 2044 days


#1 posted 12-05-2015 10:30 PM

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joey502

487 posts in 985 days


#2 posted 12-05-2015 10:30 PM

The only experience I have is with loose tenons, shop made jigs for my plunge router. The jigs are made of 1/2 Baltic birch plywood. A slot routed into the jig matches the size of the guide bushing I will be using. The slot length is chosen and cut for the mortise size I want to use. There is a fence on the jig to clamp it to the work piece.

I also wanted a precise and repeatable way to cut joints without buying machines and taking up space I do not have to spare. I was not confident enough in my skills at the time to chop them by hand either. When I make a jig it is useable for any materials thickness, I use the same jig and shims if there is a thickness difference in mating parts.

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joey502

487 posts in 985 days


#3 posted 12-05-2015 10:32 PM

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joey502

487 posts in 985 days


#4 posted 12-05-2015 10:35 PM

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AandCstyle

2575 posts in 1724 days


#5 posted 12-05-2015 11:00 PM

I also prefer using floating tenons. I really like my MortisePal mortising jig. Sadly, the company went out of business so the best option is to make your own jig(s) as Joey has done. Mathias’ (woodgears.ca) designs are great, but complex to build IMO. Dominoes can be found for <$1000 on ebay which is comparable to the Leigh jig cost wise. FWIW

-- Art

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dschlic1

331 posts in 1437 days


#6 posted 12-05-2015 11:22 PM

Thanks for the replies. I looked at Mathias’ pantorouter. However I have the same problem as with a mortising machine: no room to store it.

I am leaning toward a floating tenon type jig. However doweling jigs also seem to be a simplier way to proceed. As I am leaning tword a loose mortise jig, I scored a Porter Cable 6902 router with both fixed base and plunge base today to use on that jig. For $21 I couldn’t go too far wrong.

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CharleyL

197 posts in 2831 days


#7 posted 12-07-2015 03:39 PM

I started making mortises and tenons using the square drill/chisel mortising machines and worked my way through the dowel jigs, then on to floating tenon jigs, and then on to better ways of making mortises and tenons because I was never satisfied with the quality of the joints that I was getting or the time that it was taking me to make the joints. Rarely did I get my tenons to fit perfectly in the matching mortise with these methods.

Most dowel jigs can be very frustrating. You get what you pay for. The biggest problem with dowel jigs is being able to get multiple dowel holes spaced accurately and identical to the dowel holes that you make on the mating parts. With most dowel jigs you can make one dowel hole in each piece accurately and easily, but when you need multiple dowels spaced specific distances apart, most dowel jigs will let you down because you will not be able to get the spacing of the dowels accurate enough to match the holes that you made on the mating piece. The Dowel Max jig will do this well, but it is also very expensive.

A good and comparatively cheap and small floating tenon jig is a Beadlock jig. Alignment of it only requires a joint center line be marked on each piece to align the jig. It will let you make the mortises using just it and a hand held drill. Special floating tenon stock is available in long strips at a reasonable price that you can cut to length as you need it and a special router bit is available so you can make your own, but the bit is expensive, so unless you are heavily using the jig it won’t pay to buy the bit. A Beadlock jig will do a very nice job at a very reasonable price, if you won’t be making hundreds of M&T joints. In my opinion, these jigs are nearly the perfect solution for a home hobbyist just getting started.

A Mortise Pal is a great, small, and reasonably priced floating tenon router mortising jig, but the manufacturer has gone out of business. It too, only requires an alignment mark on the two mating pieces to align the jig to. The tenon stock needs to be made on a table saw and router table. A planer helps make them the exact thickness, but it’s possible to do this on a table saw without the need for a planer. Some people have built their own versions of Mortise Pal jigs. A Google search should bring up several, if you want to try making your own jig.

General and Trend make router mortise and tenon jigs that work very similar, and I once owned the Trend, but I found that it was impossible to make minor adjustments to get the tenons to perfectly fit the mortises and I was never happy with my Trend jig. If you can build your own floating tenon jig this is probably the best and cheapest way to make pretty good floating M&T joints, but to make fine adjustments for fit you will need to make fine adjustments to the thickness of your floating tenon stock.

A Leigh FMT jig will allow you to use your router to make both the mortises and the tenons. It’s also more expensive, but the result is fantastic. There is an adjustment in these jigs for you to fine tune your mortises and tenons so they will fit together perfectly. I have their FMT Pro jig and I no longer seek a better way to do mortise and tenon joints. To me, it’s the ultimate M&T jig. Their Super FMT jig is just a more reasonably priced version for hobbyists (wish it was available when I bought mine) and it will do everything to the same accuracy as the FMT Pro jig. I know it’s expensive, even for the Super FMT jig, but if you get one you will never seek a better way to get perfect fitting mortise and tenon joints.

I’ve made the whole long journey. I still have my Beadlock jig and a Dowel-It jig to use for the simpler requirements, but my “GO TO” M&T jig is now my FMT jig. I sold or gave away all the other jigs that I wasted my time and money on. Please let us know which choice you make and how well you do with your choice.

Charley

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Fred Hargis

3949 posts in 1960 days


#8 posted 12-07-2015 03:50 PM

The mortise pal would be perfect for you is it was still available, since it’s out (unless you find a used one someone is willing to part with) I can highly recommend the FMT. Mine is the aluminum (I can’t keep the names straight) I bought used about 5 years ago. They are simple to use and do an extremely nice job. It does pay to have a router dedicated to it (changing one back and forth to the base could get tedious, the install takes some alignment care) or at least a combo kit with the plunge base dedicated to the base. Not sure what else to say…I also have a Domino, and I still won’t give up my FMT. Someday maybe, but not for quite a while.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

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a1Jim

115206 posts in 3044 days


#9 posted 12-07-2015 04:00 PM

The most basic jig is like photo #2 that Joey posted, I used one for years.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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dschlic1

331 posts in 1437 days


#10 posted 12-07-2015 06:37 PM

A high end doweling jig (Jessem or DowelMax) will run around $200. The low end Leigh unit is about twice as much. I am still leaning towards a shop built jig. I have come up with this design in Sketchup:

Will make only loose tenon joints, however should be able to make them very accurately. I have a good thickness planer (DeWalt DW735) so making accurately thick tenons should be possible.

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

4859 posts in 2280 days


#11 posted 12-07-2015 07:42 PM

Actually I prefer to make mortises with a dedicated mortising machine. Make a square hole to fit your square tenon. I have and use many routers, but I never enjoyed cutting mortises with them. A benchtop mortiser won’t require any more shop space than a FMT.

Tenons can be easily cut on the tablesaw with a dado blade.

I don’t know what style of furniture you make, but if you ever do arts and crafts style the ability to make square mortises is key.

For the price of a Super FMT you could get a good benchtop mortiser, and a decent dado set. Assuming you already have a tablesaw and miter gauge, you would be ready to work.

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

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Logan Windram

303 posts in 1929 days


#12 posted 12-07-2015 07:47 PM



Actually I prefer to make mortises with a dedicated mortising machine. Make a square hole to fit your square tenon. A benchtop mortiser won t require any more shop space than a FMT.

Tenons can be easily cut on the tablesaw with a dado blade.

I don t know what style of furniture you make, but if you ever do arts and crafts style the ability to make square mortises is key.

- pintodeluxe

agreed- I use the bandsaw to do tenons, but the Dado blade is perfect as well. If you’re going to do floating joinery, the Domino seems like the way to go.

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dschlic1

331 posts in 1437 days


#13 posted 12-07-2015 08:34 PM

The problem I have found with making tenons on the table saw or bandsaw is that the cheek cut for each side of the tenon is referenced from different sides of the board. This means that if the stock thickness varies by 0.010” which is not much, the tenon thickness will also vary by 0.010” which for me is unacceptable. The tenon is either too tight or too loose. I did say that I am picky.

The thing with a light weight jig, I can hang it on the wall out of the way when not using it. A mortising machine will need floor space which I don’t have.

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pintodeluxe

4859 posts in 2280 days


#14 posted 12-08-2015 12:13 AM

dschlic1,
I batch plane my lumber down to a depth stop, so inconsistencies in tenon thickness isn’t an issue. If you are relying on store bought lumber, then I see your point.

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

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builtinbkyn

651 posts in 407 days


#15 posted 12-08-2015 12:42 AM

I was looking at this – MLCS Horizontal Router Table. Don’t know anything about it but I think there are youtube videos on it.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn :)

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