Benchtop mortiser worth it?

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Forum topic by WOODIE1 posted 07-02-2014 01:10 AM 2200 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View WOODIE1's profile


117 posts in 2279 days

07-02-2014 01:10 AM

Ok quick background, I am currently using a Jessem dowel jig for my joinery. It is fairly accurate although it is hard to lock down and when the joints have multiple dowels the accuracy gets a bit off. Also dry fitting 10 dowels on say one panel between 2 legs gets old.

I have looked into other methods such as Festool but in the end I think they all have the same shortcomings and complaints.

The M/T looks like the way to go and can also be used as loose tenon.

I hate growing out of a machine and that is my worry here. That said what are the better bench top machines? What am I looking for? Tilting floor standing set ups are about 2-3x’s the price and not sure they add any more to a backyard woodworker?

What bothers you about your mortise machine? What would you buy differently??

My time is usually cut short for woodworking and I need to buy a jig not build one. More time to build vs jig build.

Thanks and as usual I appreciate all the help.

11 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10401 posts in 3648 days

#1 posted 07-02-2014 01:16 AM

You cannot do end mortising with most hollow chisel
mortisers so in general they are not suitable for loose

View WOODIE1's profile


117 posts in 2279 days

#2 posted 07-02-2014 01:44 AM

There is my first obvious overlooked flaw in my thinking. After spending a day on the net looking for alternatives to the dowel my head is spinning.


View TiggerWood's profile


271 posts in 1606 days

#3 posted 07-02-2014 02:00 AM

I love dowel joints. For me they are a lot easier and accuracy has never been a problem. I dry fit them the same way I do my glue up, with clamps on the bench. Getting it apart after the dry fit is sometimes a problem though.

View runswithscissors's profile


2752 posts in 2025 days

#4 posted 07-02-2014 07:37 AM

I have a Delta mortiser that I like very much (after considerable modification that allows me to make mortises almost as fast as I can pull the lever down. It involves a sliding table that moves with a rack and pinion and lets me do a mortise about 3” long without repositioning the material. I advance the wood by cranking the spur gear with the left hand and pull the lever with my right. Goes really fast). Hold downs are the new Bessey toggle clamps, which are self adjusting and very quick to clamp and release.

If you can make matching tenons, there would be no need for end mortises. I had a belly full of dowels years ago, and would use almost any other method if at all possible.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View WOODIE1's profile


117 posts in 2279 days

#5 posted 07-02-2014 05:45 PM

The Jessen jig has preset steps for adjustment. Of course sometimes you want it in the middle which is of course impossible. Th inaccuracy comes from the jig moving when doing hard woods. I try and sharpen my drill bits before use to help.

I think my dry fit issues are the dowels I am using. They are flutter and are very tight. You basically ruin them after a dry fit. I have some leftovers that aren’t fluted and you can pull them out by hand and they have a nice friction fit.

From what I understand the same complaint from the Festool guys in regards to the Domino is it moving when the cutter is doing it’s thing.

My thought is the mortiser would allow the wood to be trapped to eliminate the movement. Then there is the inaccuracy of cutting tenons on table saw.

I am looking into Moprtise Pal also. Problem with woodworking is it is expensive even if you build the jigs. There is not one project that I have done that in the middle of it I think of something I need. Fun but expensive hobby.

View Woodbum's profile


812 posts in 3066 days

#6 posted 07-02-2014 05:48 PM

Bought a used Delta benchtop mortiser and really like it. I now use MT joints a whole lot more than I used to. You might want to try a benchtop model before jumping in with both feet on a large floor model, to see if you will use it enough to justify ponying up the large amount for a stationary machine. Just my opinion and I could be wrong, but not for me.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View runswithscissors's profile


2752 posts in 2025 days

#7 posted 07-02-2014 08:42 PM

Well, the OP asked about mortises, but tenons should be part of the consideration. I adapted a tenoning jig to use on my shaper (but originally on a router table). I can make tenons quickly and as accurately as anything else I’ve seen, with the possible exception of some of the complex routing machines such as the Woodrat. The TS is not ideal for tenon making, I agree.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View AandCstyle's profile


3052 posts in 2257 days

#8 posted 07-03-2014 01:26 AM

Woodie, I have a Jet benchtop mortiser and have basically replaced it with the MortisePal. The hold down on the Jet is a POS, IMO. The MP is well engineered and a joy to use. It does have some limitations-it doesn’t accommodate stock wider than 3” and it doesn’t do angles. Also, you will need to buy the appropriate router bits which aren’t cheap either. However, I have found it much more pleasant using floating tenons that I tend to much more readily tackle A&C projects. HTH

-- Art

View lcurrent's profile


125 posts in 3815 days

#9 posted 07-11-2014 10:54 PM

-- lcurrent ( It's not a mistake till you run out of wood )

View pintodeluxe's profile


5662 posts in 2813 days

#10 posted 07-11-2014 11:32 PM

There are several good benchtop mortisers on the market. The Powermatic and General International earned top honors in a recent Fine Woodworking shootout. I use the Delta. It is a nice unit capable of accurate mortises. The main limitation with benchtop mortisers is the size stock that can fit under the hold-down. For most units, you can only fit a 4” wide board under the hold-down. Often I would like to mortise the edge of a 5-6” wide board, and have to add a funky riser block that Delta includes with the mortiser. The riser block disables the fence adjustment, which is a minor annoyance.

The Powermatic won’t allow a wider board to be mortised either. It usually gets good reviews and has a bit more power than most.

The General allows you to mortise the edge of a wider board, and has a really smooth action. However the fence lacks a rack and pinion sticks in the grooves, making it somewhat difficult to adjust. It makes angled cuts, but the price approaches some stationary mortisers.

Be sure to check out the offerings from Steel City and Woodcraft, both of which are excellent values.

If you want a forever tool, get a stationary model with an x-y table. Otherwise get one of the nicer benchtop units, which are very nice in their own regard. I use my Delta on every single project.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2577 days

#11 posted 07-12-2014 02:50 AM

Depending on your budget, look into the festool domino. It handles the end of long pieces no problem. For all the flak festool catches, the domino is one of their tools that earns its keep in spades.

Barring that, building a horizontal mortiser would be a good option. There’s a lot of free plans out there.

Edit to add: I haven’t had my domino slip during use. Just spend some time getting used to how it works and how to hold the tool and workpiece so things don’t slip.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

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