Requesting review of mortising machines

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Forum topic by IowaWoodcrafter posted 01-26-2008 05:05 AM 16953 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View IowaWoodcrafter's profile


280 posts in 4103 days

01-26-2008 05:05 AM

I build a lot of Arts and Crafts style furniture which means lot’s of mortise and tenon joints. I’m tired of drilling out the mortise and cleaning them up with chisels. Anybody that has a mortising machine I’d love to hear a review of it. I’d like to see reviews of multiple brands, Jet, Delta, General Machine, Grizzly, etc. Thanks in advance.

-- Owen Johnson - aka IowaWoodcrafter

24 replies so far

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3923 days

#1 posted 01-26-2008 05:40 AM

Owen – I have the Delta tabletop mortise machine. It works great. You do have to do some careful alignment of the bit to be sure its square, etc. But once set correctly you can get good mortises with it. That’s not to say that you’ll not have to clean up some with a hand chisel. But definitely not as much cleaning up as with drilling with a typical round bit.

The other thing is to make sure your bits are always sharp. A dull bit is a killer. They are not hard to keep sharp.

I’ve used a General mortise machine at a woodworking school that I liked as well also. It’s a much heavier machine than my Delta and probably would be great for a production shop. My Delta is plenty for a weekend hobbiest.

Long and short I would have no problem telling you to buy a Delta. I’ve been quite happy with mine.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3849 days

#2 posted 01-26-2008 06:21 AM


I’ve got a Jet that I bought at an auction for $60.00. When I unpacked it I found that the chisels had never been opened. Apparently it had been assembled and never used despite being about two years old. I have never had a problem with mine but then it doesn’t get used a lot. The biggest problem I have had with mine is where to store it. Since I don’t use it every day I don’t want it taking up bench space. I put a 3/4” ply base on mine that has a 45 bevel on each side and stored it in a cabinet. When I need to use it I mount it between two mating cleats that are screwed to the bench top. This is the only mortiser I have ever owned and would definitely buy another Jet but I agree with Betsy that keeping the bits sharp is critical to getting good performance out of the tool.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4063 days

#3 posted 01-26-2008 06:37 AM

I have the general benchtop mortiser that doesn’t tilt. It cuts effortless mortises as accurately as you bothered to setup the machine. I clamps good, holds down good, has a smooth action, great stops, a strong motor and is easy to setup. I’m very pleased with it. The only change I might make would be to mount and xyz vice to it to facilitate a little faster cutting of by just cranking a handle to move the piece along. Other than that, it holds prime real estate on my bench, not because it gets used a lot, but because it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4015 days

#4 posted 01-26-2008 07:22 AM

I also have the Delta, and I am very happy with it.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Marge's profile


145 posts in 3981 days

#5 posted 01-26-2008 11:42 AM

I use the delta and have been very satisfied.

-- Marge, Colorado

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 3867 days

#6 posted 01-26-2008 12:12 PM

The ultimate mortise and tenon machine is the one David Marks uses one his TV show Woodworks. Its called a Multi – RouterIf you go to his web site he has a link.
A more affordable machine is the Leigh FMT, they make them in Canada. I bought mine on the web. I have no regrets. very easy to set up. It uses a router, I have made very few mistakes with it, and I’m not a rocket scientist.
They also have what I think is the best dovetail jig made

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View IowaWoodcrafter's profile


280 posts in 4103 days

#7 posted 01-26-2008 06:05 PM

Thanks for all of the reviews everyone! I looked at the web sites of all the big tool manufacturers last night. Currently I’m leaning towards the Steel City mortiser. If anyone has one of these please give me your opinions.

If I don’t go with the Steel City I’ll likely buy the Delta. The Steel City has a few features I like. It has the easiest access to the chuck to change the bit of any model I’ve seen. It has a nice feature that allows you to move the wood without unclamping. It has wings that extend to provide better support. It sells for $279 at Amazon with free shipping and currently has a $40 mail in rebate.

If you have experience with other Steel City tools but not the mortiser what is your impression of the quality of the brand?

-- Owen Johnson - aka IowaWoodcrafter

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#8 posted 01-26-2008 06:57 PM

If you buy it from Amazon. Use an Amazon link on LumberJocks. Because then Martin get a kickback from the other web site. This keeps this site going.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Belle City Woodworking's profile

Belle City Woodworking

355 posts in 4043 days

#9 posted 01-26-2008 07:27 PM

I have a Delta 14-651 and I am quite happy with it.


-- Formerly known as John's Woodshop - and NO not the one from Ohio!

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4024 days

#10 posted 01-27-2008 01:44 AM

I have the Delta 14-651 too and have no complaints. Though with the first one I did. It was machined poorly and had to much slop up high and was too tight down low. Fine tuning the adjustment couldn’t do it. Poor casting job on that one. I took it back and adjusted the next one to satisfaction before leaving the store and haven’t looked back.

I seriously considered the Steel City, but thought I’d save a couple bucks. Well, I blew that one, with the time spent troubleshooting and having to return the first unit. I really liked the Powermatic, but decided it was too expensive for the amount of mortising I do at this point. I think you’d be making a wise decision on the Steel City. I haven’t heard any negatives and like you said, they have a couple of features that top the Delta.

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3826 days

#11 posted 01-27-2008 03:29 AM

I have both a jet and a leigh FMT. My Jet gathers dust and I am thinking of selling it. The FMT is great.

If I were to buy a new dedicated mortiser, I would get the steel city one. It is far superior to all the others. Now for arts and crafts where a square hole means a lot, the FMT may not be your best choice.

-- making sawdust....

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4112 days

#12 posted 01-27-2008 04:37 AM

I have the General like Mot but I went ahead and spent the extra and got the one that tilts. I absolutly love this thing. Keep in mind, THE INSTRUCTIONS ARE S@#$. Despite the poor instruction manual, it is very easy to set up, the shipping protectorant cleaned up easily. It seems to work better and better as I use it. Very solid fence, good torque, has great hold downs one from the top and one from the front. I did spend some to hone the chisles (bear in mind, I suck at sharpening.) It was worth every penny I paid and would buy it again in a heart beat.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View CedarFreakCarl's profile


594 posts in 4081 days

#13 posted 01-27-2008 04:47 AM

I’ve got the Fisch 1hp 6×6. It has a 1200 rpm motor on it which is nice for not generating a lot of heat with the slower bit speed. It’s plenty heavy-duty and has done all that I’ve asked of it. It’ll punch up to 1” square hole all day long without breaking a sweat. The only thing I don’t like is the “return spring” which I probably wouldn’t have noticed except that I had seen a mortiser comparison in FWW that had griped about it. Some of the other machines used gas struts and counterweights. I probably wouldn’t have considered it except that I got a deal ($515) which made it a no brainer. Otherwise I probably would have purchased a 3/4hp model of something else.

-- Carl Rast, Pelion, SC

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#14 posted 01-27-2008 05:02 AM

Current Woodsmith Magazine I received today Vol 30, Issue 175 has an article on Hollow Chisel Mortisers. Not a review, but how to use them.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View IowaWoodcrafter's profile


280 posts in 4103 days

#15 posted 01-27-2008 05:43 AM


That article is what kicked off this thread. I read it and thought it would be great to get reviews from everyone. I’ve pretty much decided I’ll go with the Steel City. Unfortunately I was wrong about Amazon having this machine. It was Woodcraft that has it. The rebate is good till March 31. I’m saving up to buy it. As soon as I get it and use it I’ll do a formal review. If Amazon picks it up before I make my purchase I’ll make sure and go through the LumberJocks link.

BTW, does anyone know where the Steel City Mortiser is made? If it’s made In the US or Canada then I won’t feel bad about buying it. I will probably change my mind if it’s made in China.

-- Owen Johnson - aka IowaWoodcrafter

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