To Use a Hollow Chisel Mortiser or Not

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by angelis posted 11-19-2008 03:35 AM 6410 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View angelis's profile


54 posts in 3906 days

11-19-2008 03:35 AM

Topic tags/keywords: joining arts and crafts chisel router question

I am stuck in making a purchase or not and thought I would throw it out there for some opinions to help.

I am about to start making a bedroom set in a mission style and will have a lot of mortise and tenon joints to do. I am starting with the night stands and they have 28 mortises a piece. Some of these mortises are going to be through mortises and will be visible.

I am debating on buying a hollow chisel mortiser or doing them with a router and squaring up the corners with a chisel. The through mortises will be going through 4” stock.

Here is the concern, should I buy a hollow chisel mortiser or is it better to do them with a router and chisel? I am also concerned that the edges from the mortiser will be a problem on the hollow chisel mortiser and is it worth the cost?

If I do go with the hollow chisel mortiser I am debating on the Harbor Freight machine (on sale for $119) or the Steel City brand (on sale for $269).

Any thoughts and opinions are greatly appreciated.

18 replies so far

View rhchampagne's profile


8 posts in 3473 days

#1 posted 11-19-2008 03:44 AM

I would go with the mortiser. Once you set it up, it is a lot easier and less fussy than a router. Especially on through cuts. If you are chopping a 4” through mortise you may have to come in from one side and than the other anyway, I doubt the two mortisers you mention have a depth of cut of 4”.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3893 days

#2 posted 11-19-2008 03:48 AM

I’d go with the mortiser also. Like RH said – once it’s set up it’s a breeze. I’d go with the Steel City before the Harbor Freight. In my experience HF machines are junk and you end up buying another tool to replace the junk. Just my two cents.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4083 days

#3 posted 11-19-2008 04:00 AM

I have a General mortiser. I love it.

I would be more concerned with trying to clean up after a router on a thin edge than using a moritiser. Once you do have the machine set up, the square chisel of the machine will put pressure straight down, no chase of slipping or blowing out the side.

Most of the decent machines come with hold downs, use them. Also make sure the chisel is square with the fence. If you don’t you will get ridges on the sides of the mortise.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3751 days

#4 posted 11-19-2008 04:02 AM

I would stay away from the HF machine. SC/Delta/Powermatic would suit the bill. Replacement chisels are cheaper for the Delta’s though….

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Garry's profile


64 posts in 4249 days

#5 posted 11-19-2008 04:04 AM

I agree with Betsy, go with the Steel City. You will not regret buying a good mortiser, but you will eventually wish for a Domino also.

-- Garry, Engadine, Michigan (Upper Peninsula)

View coloradoclimber's profile


548 posts in 4065 days

#6 posted 11-19-2008 04:04 AM

I recently picked up a Delta 14-651 mortiser. It works surprisingly well. I dont know how well it would work trying to do a 4 inch mortise, I dont think the chisels are even that long. But for up to an inch I dont have any complaints. One thing I did do was pick up a set of diamond chisel hones and sharpen the chisels inside and out. I also sharpened the drill bits. Rockler and Lee Valley both sell the hones. The ones from Lee Valley were about half the price of Rockler.

View Slacker's profile


178 posts in 3698 days

#7 posted 11-19-2008 04:41 AM

I wish I had a mortiser. All the time spending either fitting the mortise to the tenon or the tenon to the mortise is justification enough as far as I think. But I am determined to control myself and wait until a project pays for it.

Does anyone know from personal experience if those sytems that you can adapt to a drill press are any good?

-- Adapt, improvise, overcome

View rhchampagne's profile


8 posts in 3473 days

#8 posted 11-19-2008 08:38 PM

I had a drill press attachment before I got my Yates American K-25. The drill press system worked fine for me for a long time. I’ve heard some people say that it is a pain to set up the attachment and then break it down often. This wasn’t a problem because I had more than one dp and could just leave the one as a dedicated mortising set up. I’m guessing that as long as you keep the bits/chisels sharp and set it up properly, the attachment will be just as good as a bench top model mortiser. A few drawbacks are that you would need to purchase an x/y table to move the secured stock under the cutter (if that is important to you) and the motor size/power difference between your drill press and a mortiser.

View angelis's profile


54 posts in 3906 days

#9 posted 11-19-2008 09:31 PM

Well, it seems everyone is in agreement that I should get a mortiser. I think I will go for the steel city model. I just really hate spending the money and I stir about the cost every time I buy a tool over $50.

Thanks for the help everyone.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3872 days

#10 posted 11-21-2008 12:16 AM

You won’t regret it.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3960 days

#11 posted 11-21-2008 12:49 AM

Go for it! You need it if you are doing Mission.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3960 days

#12 posted 11-21-2008 12:49 AM

Go for it! You need it if you are doing Mission.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Hrolfr's profile


174 posts in 3663 days

#13 posted 11-21-2008 02:41 AM

I have a jet motiser and couldn’t be happier with it

-- Hrolfr

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3986 days

#14 posted 11-21-2008 04:16 AM

Why pass up the chance to get a new tool?

It will make the job easier, faster and cleaner. Plus you will never need to buy another one.

I have the Delta and am very happy with it, but any name brand should work good for you. I would stay away from the HF one.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Doug S.'s profile

Doug S.

295 posts in 3705 days

#15 posted 11-23-2008 02:58 PM

OK – I’ll be the lone dissenter. I’m not a big benchtop mortiser fan after having owned a Delta (since sold) and used another (Fisch?? IIRC). The bigger floorstanding units are a whole nuther story. But the benchtop holddowns are OK at best. IMHO you’ll get a much better mortise with a router and either good edge guide or motising jig. The overlapping cuts required for longer mortises are rarely exactly aligned – just a thou here and there. Then there’s the cross grain cutting vs long grain with a router. The net result is a much smoother walled mortise with a router that’s easier to get a piston fit with the tenon. Squaring up the ends is a PITA but no more tedious than reclamping to the table for every cut to assist the “holddown”.

-- Use the fence Luke

showing 1 through 15 of 18 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics