Horizontal or Vertical Mortising Machine: Which, or Both?

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Forum topic by Lee Barker posted 07-14-2012 03:23 PM 4592 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2850 days

07-14-2012 03:23 PM

Often the question is, which mortising machine? and that refers to the vertical ones which are common, have no footprint (usually), and do a passable job. However, they have limitations which can usually be covered by a horizontal machine.

Horizontal (or “slot”) mortisers can have a pretty big footprint and an intimidating, gangly presence in a small shop.
But, since they’re more router than slow drill press, their actually cutting time is significantly less than their benchtop cousin.

Have you faced the possibility of owning one or the other, and what is the result?



-- " 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"

7 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10401 posts in 3647 days

#1 posted 07-14-2012 03:30 PM

I own both and I’ve used the horizontal most, for loose tenon
work. One advantage is you can mortise into end grain. Another
is you can mortise big things like old doors. I’m not wild about
making the loose tenon stock… it’s a bit fussy as a process.

I haven’t got around to it yet but I intend to do a series of
pieces with squared through tenons and for that I see the
chisel mortiser getting a work out.

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2925 days

#2 posted 07-14-2012 04:17 PM

I owned an older foot operated Commercial Powermatic (70s model) for years, sold it as it was getting little use, replaced it with a smaller footprint Laguna model a couple of years ago. It also weighs 1/4 of the other machine.

I am very happy with the Laguna, I have tested but not purchased a horizontal mortiser for my shop.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3308 days

#3 posted 07-14-2012 05:19 PM

I have a Powermatic desktop mortiser and it works great for the needs I have. I do not make doors or really large pieces so I really don’t have a need for anything larger or space consuming in my workshop.

View killerb's profile


150 posts in 2398 days

#4 posted 07-14-2012 06:09 PM
I have used this set and they are the best I have ever seen. Fast, extremely well made and does everything you need. He also makes a horizontal version and will make almost any type you need. I know Richard as a personal friend and would recommend his equipment over anything. bob

-- Bob

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4077 days

#5 posted 07-14-2012 06:21 PM

I do own a General benchtop with tilting head. Needless to say I have not used it as much as I thought I would.
Other than for angled mortises I would rather use a router because it is faster!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3129 days

#6 posted 07-15-2012 02:16 AM

Being big fan of loose tenons, I agree with Loren. A horizontal with an XY table would give you the ability to knock loose tenon joinery with ease. Its a great system, quick, strong, and accurate. But, if you just want to plunge mortises for traditional tenons I would say Killerb is correct about Richline. They are really nice machines. The problem is you would need two, one for mortises and the other for the nice round tenons to match. As for hollow chisel mortisers, I have a decent one covered with dust. Its much easier to cut mortises with a router and the Mortise Pal . The limitation on the Mortise Pal is the depth of the mortise. Of course there is the new Festool Domino XL which like the mortise Pal takes up no floor space at all.

View Loren's profile (online now)


10401 posts in 3647 days

#7 posted 07-15-2012 02:24 AM

I have a Wirth machine which is like an overarm router head turned
on it’s side with a pivot point and a handle for up/down z axis travel in
an arc. It’s quieter than a universal motor router and belt driven
to about 20,000 rpm. Since cuts are made from templates the arc
isn’t a problem. You move the cutterhead up and down with
our right hand and manipulate the workpiece on a x-y table with
your left. It’s pretty cool. Lock the z axis and it works like a slot
mortiser. Unluck the z axis and install a template and it becomes
a sort of tenoner.

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