Benchtop Mortisers-Which one?

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Forum topic by cso posted 10-07-2011 03:43 AM 5637 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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82 posts in 2711 days

10-07-2011 03:43 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I am a weekend hobbyist, but I am admittedly picky about my tools. I just don’t have time to waste on bad tools. That being said, I have a birthday coming up and can’t decide which benchtop mortiser to get. The Delta seems like a great deal with the $50 rebate, but should I splurge and go for the Powermatic 401 which is quite a bit more expensive? Is it worth the extra cost? Thanks in advance for any opinions and input.

15 replies so far

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82 posts in 2711 days

#1 posted 10-07-2011 03:55 AM

Also, just to add this, a Craftsman model is on Craigslist for $200 never used still in the box. Probably could talk him down to $150 since it has been posted for almost a month.

View tom427cid's profile


294 posts in 2493 days

#2 posted 10-07-2011 06:49 AM

Whichever brand you choose,IMHO,you will have less trouble with burned bits and chisels if you stick with a motor that runs at 1750rpm.
Good luck with your search.

-- "certified sawdust maker"

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3033 days

#3 posted 10-07-2011 08:37 AM

I went with the Delta and it does what it’s supposed to do just fine, but then again I am not cutting mortises all day everyday. Be sure to read up on sharpening/honing the chisels – ignoring that is just asking for poor performance and potentially broken bits!

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3091 days

#4 posted 10-07-2011 03:39 PM

I got the Powermatic 701 about a month ago to do a job involving four tables and a short schedule. It’s my first mortiser and probably my last.

After a couple of hours to get it set up and run a few practice pieces, I ran all 16 legs (32 mortises), in about an hour – and every one was perfect. I’m sold! – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View dbhost's profile


5723 posts in 3255 days

#5 posted 10-07-2011 04:07 PM

I have the Central Machinery (HF) and aside from the hold down design, which I modded, it’s fine. HOWEVER, it wasn’t my first choice… Or even my second, but rather what I came up with in a trade deal on an old Delta miter saw I refurbed after finding it on the curb on trash day… Long story…

So since the HF is in my shop, and wasn’t even honestly on my wish list, you have to ask what was… And that’s easy… The Shop Fox 3/4 HP sold by Grizzly as the G9976. Highly rated and reviewed. One thing about the Shop Fox that is a bit odd, at least in the specs, it doesn’t include bits/ You would need to buy a set separately.

Whatever you get, spend some time setting it up right, and you will be well rewarded with quick, easy, and accurate mortises…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2873 days

#6 posted 10-07-2011 04:36 PM

+1 on Tom’s comment; heat is your enemy in this tool.

At the time I was shopping, a decade or more ago, the only 1750 one in the tier you’re looking at was Jet. That may have changed.

The Jet has been a good tool for me. Not everyday use, but dependable and survived several classes that involved lots of mortising.

This group has a certain wariness about Craftsman tools, moreso for HF tools, but there are success stories here around those brands.



-- " 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 3097 days

#7 posted 10-07-2011 05:32 PM

I don’t know what your total shop situation is so I cannot opine intelligently. Nonetheless I will challenge you to ask yourself if a mortising machine is the top priority for your shop?

I have one and it may be the least used power tool in my shop. Through experience, I have determined that I much prefer to cut mortises with a plunge router and jig.

Also, if you have a good floor standing drill press, you will find that the benchtop mortising machine offers very little value over what a mortising attachment for a good drill press will do for you.

Finally, if you get a mortising machine, you really need it to run at 1750 rpm. That is fairly common now, but it was not when I bought my machine a few years ago. I bought the Jet because it was one of the few (at that time) that ran at 1750.

I don’t mean to be negative. I just advise you to think about these points.

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

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15367 posts in 2641 days

#8 posted 10-07-2011 06:12 PM

I have a Steel City and am very happy with it. Extensions and work holding features, along with a good design for chuck / bit access made it the choice for me. Good luck.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Bigrock's profile


292 posts in 2985 days

#9 posted 10-07-2011 06:25 PM

I have a Jet, but look at the machines today, I would bought a General or a 701 Powermatic Mortiser. The reason I say this is the Stock holding clamps on these machines.
One of the Woodworking Magazines had a article on bench top machines. Look it up.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5702 posts in 2836 days

#10 posted 10-07-2011 07:23 PM

I have the Delta and although I love the function of this tool and use it often, I have had reliability problems. The cast cog and gear assembly on the handle broke. Then an internal pin on the main ger fell out. Evey time it breaks, it costs $50-60 at tool parts direct.
In use it cuts well with the 1/4” and 3/8” chisels that I normall use. The hold down is not the best, and it lacks the rolling wheels on the table that other models offer.
I have been interested in the Wood River from Woodcraft (Steel City manufactured). It offers table extensions and the table rollers. Has anyone used the Wood River mortiser?

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

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3671 days

#11 posted 10-07-2011 07:28 PM

I’m with Rich on this, for a weekend hobbyist it seems to me (obviously a personal perspective) that a mortiser is an overkill and a tool that will see very little use.

I thought about it when I saw one locally for real cheap and asked myself this question – how many mortises am I (are you) making a week? would that justifies bench space, periodical maintenance and additional tooling/expenses that a mortiser will require?

my answer for myself was ‘no’

for that once in a while that I cut mortises they aren’t that many that a mortiser would really make that big of a difference.

just a different perspective to consider.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View tom427cid's profile


294 posts in 2493 days

#12 posted 10-08-2011 06:29 AM

I recently acquired a Shop Fox 3/4hp mortiser complete with 3450rpm motor and a set of burned up bits.
I have had a 1/2hp 1725rpm Delta which cuts well but I was disappointed with the hold down arangement.
Long story short-the Shop Fox now has a 1/2hp 1725 motor and the bits and all from the Delta all interchanged.
Reason for the change was the better hold down set up. Change only took a couple of hours cause I had to add a sub-base to accomodate the larger Shop Fox foot print.
The 3/4hp motor will soon be fitted to an Incra horizontal mortiser attachment.So really nothing goes to waste.

-- "certified sawdust maker"

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1028 posts in 3088 days

#13 posted 10-09-2011 12:30 AM

I also agree with Rich on this. I mill mortises on my router table and have always found this to be more than adequate. I use solid carbide spiral bits with 1/2” shank and this setup makes short work of mortises. I would be surprised if a dedicated mortiser saved me an hour per year, and I can’t see taking up space in my shop for something with such limited incremental value to my woodworking.

-- PaulMayer,

View cso's profile


82 posts in 2711 days

#14 posted 10-14-2011 02:39 AM

Thanks for all of your excellent responses. I’m really into building mission/arts and crafts style furniture. I think I have it down to either the Powermatic or the General. The jet, delta, craftsman, steel city seem to have issues with the hold down mechanism according to my reading of several reviews.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3331 days

#15 posted 10-14-2011 06:14 AM

I have the Powermatic 701 and have used it for about 4 years now and I feel that it is absolutely the best out there. Well worth the money. My philosophy is buy the best and you will never regret it.

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