cutting mortises by hand, question

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Forum topic by Holbs posted 06-24-2013 03:40 AM 1054 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1979 posts in 2199 days

06-24-2013 03:40 AM

I did 12 mortises today. I feel more natural following Paul Seller's way of chopping mortises. His way or the standard way… I always seem to have trouble chopping the end walls at at perfect 90degrees. The first or second mallet whack is ok. But then my chisel always wants to jutt back towards the center 1/16th” or slightly more, leaving me with a 85degree end wall that I really have to work on to get back to 90.
Is this because:

A.) my material is stock 2×4 douglas fir? I am engineering a flip top table mounted on a wall bench so am using douglas fir as a rough draft.

B.) my chisel? I bought the 4pack Dewalt chisels to have a beginner initial affordable set. I have not yet sharpened them but they did chop 12 mortises rather well out of the box. Just this weekend, I did buy some old fashion Keen Cutter chisels and a new set of Crown Butt Chisels at an auction.

C.) my mortise chopping technique?

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

4 replies so far

View JADobson's profile


1235 posts in 2280 days

#1 posted 06-24-2013 03:53 AM

I don’t think this is necessarily your problem, but sharpening your chisels will help. I bought some Narex chisels not long ago and I thought they were pretty sharp right out of the box. Then I sharpened them. The difference was unbelievable. I’d give that a try.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View Holbs's profile


1979 posts in 2199 days

#2 posted 06-24-2013 03:57 AM

I didnt think i would get to doing a bunch of mortises JUST yet, to sharpen anything. If this flip top table pans out (ooo…the geometry involved!), my next priority will be flip top table for sharpening / grinding station, so I can put my Eze Lap diamond stones to use.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3817 days

#3 posted 06-24-2013 04:11 AM

Doug fir is tricky to mortise cleanly.

View Arookar's profile


83 posts in 2572 days

#4 posted 07-10-2013 04:03 AM

Sharpen and hone all new chisels. None are meant to be used out of the box. Don’t forget to flatten the back!

And especially if you are cutting softwoods like pine or doug fir. Both will tear out or slide along the grain as opposed to your cutting line unless you keep the chisel sharp sharp sharp! Seems counter-intuitive but in some ways they are harder to cut than maple.

-- The only gift is a portion of thyself. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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