Small mortises

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Forum topic by brianl posted 02-02-2010 04:21 AM 1095 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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108 posts in 3256 days

02-02-2010 04:21 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question mortiser joining

I’m trying to build a piece that uses 1/4” thick pieces that need to have a tennon cut into the end. The piece is an arts and craft wastebasket that uses the 1/4” pieces as stiles fitting into 3/4” rails with a 3/8” gap between them.

Cutting the tennons by hand isn’t easy, but the mortise is down right impossible. Up until now I have done all of my mortising by hand. Is it now time to buy a mortiser to do these tiny mortises?

I have to do 28 of them for the piece I’m working on and while the chisel method is cool and all, my mind balks at the idea of doing all of these…

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

4 replies so far

View Sean's profile


156 posts in 3790 days

#1 posted 02-02-2010 04:35 AM

you could make do with a router and a small spiral upcut bit. or even one of those laminate routers like the bosch colt.

-- "Democracy is by far the worst system of government. Except all the others that have been tried." ~ Winston Churchill

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505 posts in 3611 days

#2 posted 02-02-2010 04:25 PM

Brian, if you are looking at not investing alot money, or are looking at only doing this sort of work once in your life, I would just mark the center of the mortises and drill it out and just chisel out the rest like you have already mentioned, (you did not mention if you have been using a drill bit to remove most of the material that has to be removed). If you plan on doing this more often in the future, I would suggest the investment in the mortiser, if you like arts and crafts and from your profile favorites I think you do it might be worth the investment. In my opinion tools, especially good quality ones are never a waste of money.

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View SteveMI's profile


1123 posts in 3469 days

#3 posted 02-02-2010 05:33 PM


How about routing a single mortise slot down the rail and using 1/4” by 3/8” spacers between each stile. Then you only have to clean up the end of each routed slot.

For table aprons I cut the tenons on a TS using FWW fixture on miter. Depending on the width of board I get, sometimes I cut the tenons first and then rip that board for two aprons. You should be able to tenon your stock that way and then rip that board to 1/4” widths.

I couldn’t find a frugal mortise chisel locally, so bought a mortise bit and use it with a dead blow hammer to clean routed slots or drilled holes for tenons. Nice and square surface, but you still need a bit of chisel time for final clean out.


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108 posts in 3256 days

#4 posted 02-03-2010 02:41 AM

Wow, really great answers! Thanks everyone! I think right now I’ll probably purchase a router and see what sort of work I can do with that. I found a good article from Dewalt about using a router to create tennons as well. Maybe I can kill two birds with one stone!

Good advice man, thanks!

That has to be one of the most complete answers I’ve seen. I’m really impressed that you examined my favorites! You were dead-on about the hand-cutting as well. I have been drilling out the mortises and then using a chisel to clean them up. At some point I’ll invest in the mortiser, but for my limited budget I think I can get double-duty out of the router for right now.

The single mortise idea is really good. I hadn’t thought of creating 3/8” spacers!

Thanks again everyone!

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

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