creating through mortises

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Forum topic by BobD posted 11-27-2011 09:14 AM 1271 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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52 posts in 3438 days

11-27-2011 09:14 AM

I need to create three evenly spaced 3/8”x 3/8” square through mortises centered on a ¾” x 1” x 23” rail. I’m using white oak hardwood for this project. The mortises are meant to emulate a traditional Greene & Greene detail feature used during the Arts and Craft era. I don’t have a stand alone mortising machine or a drill press mortising attachment. I have a set of sharp Marples wood chisels but don’t want to free hand square through mortises. I’m looking for even and consistent square mortises. Looking for suggestions on how this could be done without the specialty type tools.

One way that I thought of would be to rip the rail down the middle of the 23” length, then clamp the two pieces face to face and use a dado blade set at 3/16” and cut square grooves across the top edges and the glue the two pieces back together. My concern is a visible glue line.

Suggestions/ideas/comments are welcomed. Thanks.

-- Bob, San Diego

4 replies so far

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3076 days

#1 posted 11-27-2011 10:45 AM

If you’re careful and use a straight-grained (rift-sawn) piece, you won’t see a glue line. Use a good glue-line rip blade and you won’t even have to joint. It would be to your advantage to be really careful setting the blade height, of course, and to make the tenons later just in case. I’m ripping 12” pommelle sapele so I can resaw it, then glueing the halves back together to get 10” panels for a Christmas project. So far, it looks good. I’m doing five of these, so I have to be careful about labeling each piece so they go together well.

That’s a good way to do it. Woodsmith Magazine does it a lot. That’s what gave me the courage to try it.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3769 days

#2 posted 11-27-2011 02:23 PM

Mark them out and you could drill it through with your drill press, say a 5/16” bit, then clean it up to size with your chisels. Work from the show side almost through, then clean up the back.
If you’re using rift sawn lumber, like already mentioned, a glue line won’t show. If you have a nicely figured Quarter sawn piece, you may want to practice your mortises and do it by hand.

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7599 posts in 2825 days

#3 posted 11-27-2011 03:26 PM

If you are worried about doing it with a drill bit and squaring with chisels, consider buying a hollow chisel that goes in a mortising machine. A 3/8 one will cost about $22 at Woodcraft or online and they make perfectly square holes even b hand. Just drill the hole with a bit the same size as the one inside the hollow chisel, then remove the bit from the chisel and insert a dowell of the same size. Use that to keep the chisel aligned with the hole and tap it with a wood mallet. Works great!

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2994 days

#4 posted 11-28-2011 03:05 AM

I think the first thing you need to do is try it by hand on a piece of scrap. If you’re not happy with that then what you are proposing will work as long as your cut is at exactly 90deg. Another thing you could try is laminating the rails altogether, with 3/16 back, 3/8 centre (except for where the tenons go), 3/16 face. when it comes to gluing, put a bit of waxed 3/8 square across where the tenons will be and punch them out before the glue dries.

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