Harbor freight(cental machine) Mortiser

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Forum topic by Mlong posted 02-16-2009 02:40 AM 9717 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Mlong's profile


16 posts in 2811 days

02-16-2009 02:40 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question resource

I’ve always wanted a mortising machine but being on a limited budget I wanted to ask if any of you have ever used/owned this tool. I don’t plan on using it to mass produce but want something a little faster than chiseling. I’m sure the quality is not that of Powermatic/Jet/Delta but if it works maybe even with a little modification could it be useful?

17 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3065 days

#1 posted 02-16-2009 02:43 AM

I’ve never bought a HF product, but from what I heard – if it has any moving parts (and a motor most definitely) it’s prob. not worth getting from HF for reason of poor quality.

Even tools that I do not use on a daily basis, I still want them to operate/function properly, and not have to waste my time fiddling with them, sending them back for replacement, getting them fixed….

just my $0.02

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2504 posts in 2854 days

#2 posted 02-16-2009 03:19 AM

I’ve got a second bandsaw that seems to work but not for fussy stuff. I ordered three 4” grinders (I’m also a welder) for a very low price. I burned each one out 20 minutes each one after the other in one afternoon.

They make cheap stuff but if it’s a hammer it will hit. If it’s got moving parts it will probably break. From what I understand, anyone who has all but a good mortiser are very frustrated. I don’t own one myself.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View northwoodsman's profile


242 posts in 3163 days

#3 posted 02-16-2009 03:19 AM

Woodcraft has the Steel City on sale still for $269.99. The reviews that I have seen rate it as one of the top benchtop models if not the top one. I would spend the extra $110 and go for the best rather than gamble. I believe it comes with chisels as well. PurpLev hit the nail on the head.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View gbvinc's profile


629 posts in 3363 days

#4 posted 02-16-2009 04:03 AM

I have used one from HF for a few years . While it works & I have done quite a bit with it, I would advise you to save your pennies for another month and purchase a higher quality tool with a better fence, etc. The dollar difference between a HF mortiser and a better quality one is not that great in the larger scheme of things. It is kind of like guitars… a cheap one still plays, but a decent one is so much sweeter to play!

I just haven’t gotten around to upgrading from this tool yet, but I will.

View oldwoodman's profile


137 posts in 2814 days

#5 posted 02-16-2009 04:24 AM

I would not buy any tools from Harbor Freight. Let me share an anecdote.

Three years ago my son and I helped a friend put a new roof on his house. (We were getting paid.) My friend told us where to go to work, my son and I set up our air compressor, hooked up our Senco staplers and went to work.

As I was roofing one side of his garage I could hear my friend working on the other side. He would fasten a shingle or two, and then I would hear a lot of pounding. This went on for a while. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me. I walked up to the ridge and watched what he was doing. He was using a Harbor Freight coil nailer, and had to hammer down about half of the nails because they were not going in all the way or were going in crooked. I had brought an extra Senco stapler, had plenty of staples and told him to use my stapler. He would get a lot more work done if he did. He said he would give it a try.

After getting him set up I went back to work on my side of the garage roof. The pounding ceased. All I heard were the ususal sounds of fastening shingles to the roof deck. After a while I went back up to the ridge and inquired how he liked the tool. All he could say was, “Wow.” He could hardly believe how much better a good tool worked. He was working twice as fast as before.

A good tool pays for itself in very short order and will last for years, if not for a lifetime, if properly taken care of.

View boyneskibum's profile


76 posts in 2886 days

#6 posted 02-16-2009 04:57 AM

Thanks to craigslist, I just off loaded my harbor freight mortiser. Stick with the chisels, incorporate your router, buy a quality mortiser, any of those options will save you the headache of being stuck with the HF mortiser. The tool is poorly built, the handles are a pain to use (several bloodied knuckles), the fence and the chisel are NEVER square (that’s a bad thing when you are anal retentive like me), and you’ll wreck more then you’ll produce.

*Oldwoodman, I had a HF brad nailer that never seemed to work quite right, same problem as with your friends coil nailer, I bought a Senco and have never looked back!

-- Always keep a stash of band-aids in your workshop!

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3139 days

#7 posted 02-16-2009 04:59 AM

You get what you pay for. I won’t ever buy a power tool from HF, but some of their non-precision hand tools are great for the price you pay.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View Mlong's profile


16 posts in 2811 days

#8 posted 02-16-2009 02:46 PM

Just what I was looking for. Honest opinions. I had never bought any electric power from the HF but did buy a coil roofing nailer to help me put down 35 sq of shingles and never had any problem with it. I’ll save for a better quality.

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3130 days

#9 posted 02-16-2009 05:21 PM

I buy a bit of stuff from HF but never power tools. I do but nails for my nailers though and haven’t had a problem yet, of course that doesn’t include the framer or roofing nailer. In the quantities that they are sold in I’m not about to take a chance. Use use up and throwaway after use items they are pretty good but if you find an item that is an unbelivable bargain stay away.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Blake's profile


3442 posts in 3291 days

#10 posted 02-19-2009 03:28 AM

Just hold out until a used one comes along. It is well worth it if you are building furniture, even a small bench-top model is a nice luxury. I have a small benchtop delta and I love it even though it only gets occasional use. The HF model is not worth it.

-- Happy woodworking!

View lcurrent's profile


120 posts in 3232 days

#11 posted 02-27-2009 01:55 AM

Harbour Freight I bought a 23 guage nailer 19.95 beats 300.00 for a name brand and i use it for all kinds of tacking moulding etc. i can buy 15 an still be ok

23 Gauge Air Pin Nailer 94708-0VGA oops Now 24.99

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

View 8iowa's profile


1540 posts in 3178 days

#12 posted 02-27-2009 10:44 PM

Last year I purchased a lot of tools from a local widow. There was a Harbour Freight Mortiser there that had never been used. After looking it over carefully, I was glad to leave it behind, even though I could have had it cheap.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View kwhit190211's profile


44 posts in 3172 days

#13 posted 02-28-2009 09:29 AM

I have been a buyer of HF hand tools for years, ( non powered). I was always leary at first, but I was proved wrong after I tried them for a bit. It depends on what you buy there, you have to check it out.
I recently wanted to get a porta band, so I got the one from HF. I bought it then took it home to check it out. It all depended on one thing for me. What was the wheels & tires made out of. I looked & took it back, plastic on both counts.
I did buy a couple of welders from them, they were both ok & I have had no troubles from them yet. I have a sawdust vac from them that has been in steady use for over 10 years, now. It’s like every thing else that you buy, you just have to check it out, good.
So you all know, I buy other brands as well, I don’t put my eggs all in one basket, is the saying. And, HF is only a small part of my huge collection of tools that I have been collecting for over 47 years. I’m 61 now.

View jeh412's profile


129 posts in 2792 days

#14 posted 02-28-2009 04:31 PM

I’ve never heard anything good about HF’s mortiser. I do have a lot of HF screwdrivers and some assorted other hand tools. Those have been good. I’ve had a HF dust collector for several years and like it a lot. I replaced the cloth bags with a large cartridge filter and heavy plastic bags.

-- John, co-owner Sawdust 'n Stitches

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4403 posts in 3377 days

#15 posted 03-01-2009 07:05 PM

I’m with jeh412 about the DC. I got mine in a deal with my TS. Replaced the bags (nets) with those from Highland Woodworking. Never looked back. Quiet sucker, and sure made a difference with the good bags.


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