Help picking a benchtop mortiser

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Forum topic by derosa posted 08-20-2011 05:27 AM 2325 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1572 posts in 2798 days

08-20-2011 05:27 AM

I’ve started shopping around for a benchtop mortiser and really don’t know which one to pick. I have an American woodworker that did reviews but the only one of the 6 that received a good buy stamp that I can find is the Jet JBM-5.
So the choices at woodcraft seem to be
the Jet JBM-5 at 319.00
the Delta 14-651 at 319.00 but with a 50.00 mail in rebate
the woodriver at 239.00

I have a delta drill press and bandsaw and tend to lean towards it but none of my other tools are delta so it isn’t a deal maker and actual opinions help more.

Other choices in this price range I should look at? I saw the craftsman one but the last three power tools I bought from them all sucked and failed so they’re out. Grizzly doesn’t seem to have one and Rockler only has the Jet model.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

14 replies so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3271 days

#1 posted 08-20-2011 06:01 AM

I have a Powermatic tabletop mortiser for several years now and it is very precise, well built and a quality piece of machinery. I researched other available machines before I bought it and examined all of them before deciding. Great choice and lots of good features.

View MrDan's profile


205 posts in 3251 days

#2 posted 08-20-2011 06:43 AM

I don’t own a mortiser, but I was just reading an old copy of Woodworker’s Journal (AUG 2010) today where they did a review of a bunch of them, so I figured I’d mention what they had to say.

Their “best bet” choice was actually the Shop Fox W1671. $239.99 With a 3/4hp motor, the only other one with that size motor was the powermatic, but it was almost twice the price.

The Jet scored well, but they weren’t super excited about it due to some features that could be improved upon. The Delta scored well. The woodriver wasn’t reviewed.

Also the wood whisperer did a video awhile back about mortisers in case you haven’t seen it yet. It doesn’t compare specifics, but maybe there’s some info in there that could help you make a decision.

Hope any of this helps.

View jack1's profile


2102 posts in 3990 days

#3 posted 08-20-2011 08:53 PM

I have the Delta which I bought used and have been very pleased with it. I guess it depends on how much you are going to use it. Me, not so much but I know it works when I need it. It came with a bunch of bit/chisels of various sizes. I’m sure there are good deals out there if you are not in a hurry.


-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3037 days

#4 posted 08-20-2011 09:07 PM

I have the Jet and I am reasonably pleased with it.

However, if I had it to do over again, I am not sure I would bother with a mortising machine at all. I much prefer cutting mortises with a router and jig. In my case, I am a big fan of the mortise pal which is a loose tenon system.

I like to think of the mortise pal as the “poor man’s domino”. It does almost everything a domino does but at a much lower price.

I have experimented with many different approaches to M&T joinery. Previously, my mortising machine for the mortises and a table saw to cut the tenons was my standard approach. Now it is the mortise pal.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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1916 posts in 2653 days

#5 posted 08-20-2011 10:50 PM

I would agree with Jack that it depends on how often you would use it. In most home woodworker shops that I have seen it only collects dust under the bench most of the time, but if you are in a production shop and making a lot of M&T joinery, then go for the very best and easyiest to setup you can get without a thought to cost because it is going to save you time and make you money.
Otherwise if your only doing 1 or 2 every few months I would look for a used 1 on ebay or craigslist or find a cheap made in China version and spend the rest of the money on something I was going to use almost every time I am in the shop.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2886 days

#6 posted 08-20-2011 11:05 PM

I bought a HF a couple of weeks ago and after cutting more than 40 1/2” mortises I have to say I’m satisfied.
If I was doing this day in and day out I would go for one with a little more power but this one works for me.
(price was right sale 169.00 minus 20%)

-- Life is good.

View piesafejim's profile


33 posts in 2495 days

#7 posted 08-21-2011 02:17 AM

I searched and researched for a couple of months for a machine, even used my neighbors delta for awhile to see how i liked it. I was at the local Woodcraft store and was talkng with the owner and he turned me on to the Woodriver and told me it was made by Steel City i purchased it and it came with 4 pretty decent chisels and assembly was a breeze. I startd using it that night and have to say i really ike it and would recomend it.

View derosa's profile


1572 posts in 2798 days

#8 posted 08-21-2011 02:33 AM

Thanks for all the replies. The Delta got a number of good reviews and I decided to go with it. I managed to find it on sale for 275.00 shipped and delta is running a 50.00 mail in rebate.
This will get quite a bit of use, not enough to warrant a floor model and the associated cost of a floor model I already have plans to do a mission style toddler bed when it arrives and that will require lots of mortises and a couple of other projects will follow.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View ChuckV's profile


3110 posts in 3490 days

#9 posted 08-21-2011 03:13 AM


I suggest that you invest in some good quality chisel bits. There are many sources. I have some of these from Lee Valley and am very happy with them.

I hope that you enjoy your new machine!

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View jack1's profile


2102 posts in 3990 days

#10 posted 08-21-2011 07:21 PM

I think you’ll like the Delta. Looks like a good price too. See if “Vulcan” still makes chisels. They are well made. Don’t forget a sharpener too. Have fun.


-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View MyFathersSon's profile


180 posts in 3276 days

#11 posted 08-22-2011 02:22 AM

I got the WoodRiver for Christmas last year.
Had two minor problems with it—one of which was my fault.
I didn’t notice the depth lock was set—just thought it was having a hard time drilling—and wound up breaking the pin that connects the arm to the motor.
Replaced it with an old allen wrench—stronger than the original pin.
Also the sleeve was too tight for at least two of the cutters that came with it. I was having to really force it in. SO—I just buffed the shaft of the cutter with some really course sandpaper and did the same with the inside of the sleeve.
Not the most graceful solution—but it worked.
I go months at a time without needing to do mortises—- then I get an order for some doors or some window screens—and find myself doing dozens of them.
So far—the WoodRiver has done everything I needed it to.
Of course—having never used another one—I cant offer comparison.

-- Those who insist it can't be done - should politely refrain from interrupting those who are doing it.

View derosa's profile


1572 posts in 2798 days

#12 posted 08-22-2011 02:51 AM

For the moment I was going to stick with the chisels it came with and get the sharpener that is used in the video above. I picked up an old, discontinued wood mag from around 2000 or 2001 that has a bit sharpening jig using the sharpener in the video.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2813 days

#13 posted 08-22-2011 03:23 AM

Alas too late, but perhaps another person interested in mortisers will read this.

When I was shopping, I noticed that Jet was the only one with a 1725 motor; the others were 3450. This may have changed since then (about 10 years ago).

I bought the Jet because so much heat—the enemy of a sharp edge—can be generated at the tip of the cutters, and I reasoned the lower speed would be a kinder speed.

Just my $.02.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3037 days

#14 posted 08-22-2011 04:04 AM

Lee – I made the same decision for the same reason about 5 years ago. However, I think that today, most of the mortising machines run at 1725.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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