Is a mortiser worth it

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Forum topic by GT350 posted 01-03-2016 05:08 PM 928 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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352 posts in 1406 days

01-03-2016 05:08 PM

I was reading a post about which mortiser to buy and I have a question and didn’t want to hijack the other post. I incorporate mortise and tenons in almost all of my furniture, I usually drill the mortises out with a drill press then clean them up with a chisel. For those of you that have purchased mortisers, do you think it is worth the cost and space it takes up in the shop?

15 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#1 posted 01-03-2016 05:19 PM

I say a mortiser is really worth the investment and space,you’ll make mortises 10 times faster. As to the room it takes up obvisly a bench top varity takes up less room but I like my floor model,it takes larger mortising bits and has a good xyz fence,it also cost more and mine runs on 220. If you can afford I say go for it.

-- Custom furniture

View Fettler's profile


200 posts in 1421 days

#2 posted 01-03-2016 05:27 PM

I have one and love it. Got it off Craigslist for $100 thinking I’d use it for one project but now I use it all the time. Usually during summer people clean out their garages and all sorts of goodies pop up.

Takes a little bit of work to get the chisel bits working in good order. You need a conical file with the same contour as the bit and some stones for sharpening the outsides.

It’s definitely a lot faster than using a mortising chisel.

-- --Rob, Seattle, WA

View Pezking7p's profile


3097 posts in 1075 days

#3 posted 01-03-2016 06:21 PM

YES. I got a cheapy off CL and it doesn’t take much space at all. Love it to death.

-- -Dan

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3851 posts in 1917 days

#4 posted 01-03-2016 06:28 PM

I guess I just don’t see the need given the multiple ways you can make mortises. So far I’ve avoided buying one and don’t feel left out.

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

View cracknpop's profile


190 posts in 1773 days

#5 posted 01-03-2016 06:29 PM

Glad you posted this… I bought a mortiser on a whim and haven’t even set it up yet. Was beginning to second guess my purchase. Guess its time to get it set up.

-- Rick - I know I am not perfect, but I will keep pressing on toward the goal of becoming all I am called to be.

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 576 days

#6 posted 01-03-2016 06:38 PM

I have a book on joinery, in it he shows for each major joint style how to use alternate methods/machines to accomplish the same joint, usually not as fast as the specif machine, not all have as many option as a M&T, I guess its how many you make and if you want to spend the money. I picked up a used Delta with the chisel set for 175$ and it was like new.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View rick1955's profile


254 posts in 855 days

#7 posted 01-03-2016 06:51 PM
google diy slot mortiser
Superior to chisel mortiser
Poor mans festool domino

-- Working smarter with less tools is a true crafts person...

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#8 posted 01-03-2016 07:13 PM

That is a very impressive design ,simple,effective,low cost. Thanks for sharing this,Time to sell my Mult-Router Ha ha

-- Custom furniture

View GT350's profile


352 posts in 1406 days

#9 posted 01-03-2016 07:26 PM

Rick1955, That is nice, it might be better for me than a regular mortiser and I like the light weight and small size..

View AandCstyle's profile


2541 posts in 1681 days

#10 posted 01-03-2016 11:14 PM

Mike, I have a Jet bench top mortiser and no longer use it because the hold down was inadequate IMO. I have moved to a plunge router and floating tenons. This option will not cost you anything, assuming you have a plunge router and the scrap to make jigs, and it will not take any additional space in your shop. However, Rick’s slot mortiser looks pretty nice. FWIW

-- Art

View bondogaposis's profile


3972 posts in 1775 days

#11 posted 01-03-2016 11:31 PM

Well so far I resisted the urge to buy one, as I made a jig for my plunge router that works well for me.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Loren's profile (online now)


8177 posts in 3072 days

#12 posted 01-03-2016 11:45 PM

Depends on how fast you need to be. Mortising chisels
operated on a bench that is set up for mortising are
not such a bad way to mortise, but the work can get

Machine mortisers help with perpendicularity and speed.
In the greater scheme of making the ‘average’ piece
of hardwood furniture, making mortises by hand is
not such an onerous chore when the time involved in
other steps is considered.

Eugene Landon wrote an article on chair joinery long
ago where he described laying out mortises by hand,
drilling waste on a drill press and using a chisel. This
was a guy who was working as pro reproductionist
at the time and no slouch. I think an argument can
be made that the drill press is quickest to set up for
drilling the slightly angled mortises used in many
chair designs.

View RichardDePetris's profile


44 posts in 1110 days

#13 posted 01-03-2016 11:46 PM

I would go with a router if you don’t already have one. The mortiser is a one trick pony and takes up space. A router is way more versatile and can be tucked away. Unless you absolutely need to do tons of mortising operations with perfectly square corners. then it’s really a splurge. It’s one of those tools most hobbyists and commercial shops can do without, like the radial arm saw.

A slot mortising machine is a great tool to have, but if you want something that is even better, get a small milling machine. It will do mortises and a heck of a lot more.

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#14 posted 01-04-2016 12:05 AM

I remember Eugene Landon from articles in Fine Woodworking He truly did masterful work ,I always wondered if he owned a router after seeing a wall of planes with different profiles in the photos they had of him. I’f you’re not in a hurry I guess you could still use a drill press and chop them out ,but after using a mortiser it would hard to go back to doing it the hard way.

-- Custom furniture

View Loren's profile (online now)


8177 posts in 3072 days

#15 posted 01-04-2016 12:20 AM

The article was about Chippendale chairs.

This brings up the interesting point that it can be
tempting to avoid the kinds of furniture designs
that were routine for cabinet makers in pre-machinery
days. Recalling the article, I’d be tempted to
approach the joinery the same way he did for
a small run of chairs I had no intention of repeating.
I think the jig-building for doing all those smallish
mortises in a Chippendale chair would be a pain to
figure out and execute.

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