hand cut mortise help

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Forum topic by A Slice of Wood Workshop posted 04-12-2012 01:51 PM 2081 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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A Slice of Wood Workshop

1072 posts in 3173 days

04-12-2012 01:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: mortise help chisel tenon

I’ve been trying to build a hope chest for a while that has at least 15 mortise and tenon joints. I have a problem though. I’ve got quite a few of the mortises cut, but sometimes when chiseling the mortise it seems to want to break the wood or crack it. It is 4/4 thick cherry using a 1/4” chisel making a 7/16” mortise. Is my mortise too big and not leaving enough “meat on the bones”? I believe it is leaving 1/8” on each side of the mortise. Any help/suggestion/tips would be more than appreciated.

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6 replies so far

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 2865 days

#1 posted 04-12-2012 03:13 PM

If you have 4/4 material finished at 3/4”, you should have 1/4” on each side of the mortise. That is enough material.

You can prevent a lot of problems by clamping the sides of the board while mortising. I use a hand screw clamp, parallel to the board, clamping it from the end. If you don’t use hand screws, just clamp a block of wood on either side of the board to support it. This helps prevent the pressure of mortising from blowing out. If you are working near the end of a board, be careful not to pry the chips out against the side nearest the end. That usually ends up in blowing out the wood between the mortise and the end.

Good luck

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3334 days

#2 posted 04-12-2012 03:34 PM

Hi Tim. Maybe this well help. Don’t forget to clamp the workpiece down as I did for this tutorial.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3744 days

#3 posted 04-12-2012 05:12 PM

The easiest way to cut mortises is to use the size of chisel that you want the mortise to be. A 3/8” mortising chisel works best on 4/4 lumber. You may be trying to cut it to wide with the 7/16 width. Since you have most of the mortises already cut, this info will be for future info.

View Borgmc1's profile


157 posts in 2316 days

#4 posted 04-12-2012 06:09 PM

Try pre drilling the mortise then cleaning with the chisel. That way the thin walls wont be such a problem.

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A Slice of Wood Workshop

1072 posts in 3173 days

#5 posted 04-12-2012 07:42 PM

Thank you all for your tips. I will be trying them all out tomorrow and hopefully make some progress.

-- Follow me on YouTube-

View andyboy's profile


565 posts in 3273 days

#6 posted 04-13-2012 12:02 AM

I’m with Borgmc1 then buy a chisel morticer. Excellent!

-- Andy Halewoodworker. You can't finish if you don't finish. So finish it, because finish is everything.

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