How Do You Mortise?

IMG_Mortises2WaysThis week I have gotten little time in the shop. During the week that’s understandable because of my return to Popular Woodworking Magazine (PWM). But Saturdays I generally get six to eight straight hours woodworking – except for a lunch break for wings and a beverage at local eatery. However, this weekend I am teaching a class at the Dayton, Oh., area Woodcraft; the class is building a splay-legged end table.

In the class after we discussed how to taper legs at the jointer – no it’s not multiple passes made using a stop block (see the process here in a short video I made while at PWM) – we went over a couple ways to cut mortises. IMG_RouterMethodOf the six guys in the class, three chose to use a benchtop mortise machine and three elected to router-cut their mortises. (It didn’t surprise me that no one attending my class would decide to chop mortises by hand.) I was left wondering how you guys cut your mortises.

I’m partial to my floor-model mortise machine.  I would recommend that machine to woodworkers that plan to use mortise-and-tenon joinery in most of their projects, if that is, you have the funds necessary and are interested in spending a sizable chunk for one machine. But if I had to choose between a benchtop machine and my router, I think it would depend on how many mortises I cut annually.

What do you think? How do you cut mortises for your furniture projects? Leave a comment to let me know.

Build Something Great!


Posted on

10 thoughts on “How Do You Mortise?

  1. First of all, your lucky to have a job like that. I have a mortising machine, and a tenon cutter for the table saw.

  2. I use a bench top mortiser, modified with a cross sliding vise to hold the work. The micro adjustments possible with the vise make for very precise placement. I also have a foot powered 1876 mortiser but its footprint is big so I keep that at a local museum for demonstrations.

  3. I rarely use my bench top mortiser, preferring the router with a shop made mortising jig.

  4. Hi Glen, I made a bench-top mortising station for my router. It works like a charm! Here is a photo of it:

  5. I use the drill press to take out most of it and a chisel for the rest.

  6. I use a bench top mortiser. Works quite well.

  7. Hi Glen:
    I use my bench top square chisel mortiser. Since it is an older model, I have set it up with “in-line” skate wheel to keep the material against the fence. Works great and does not hinder moving the material along as need for the next “chop.”

    By the way, Glen, (re: 18th Cent. New England Secretary project) Rockler no longer handles the “Prospect Box” lock set. What do you suggest? I ordered everything else as per your list in the book and am expecting it to arrive shortly.

    John Richardson

  8. Bench mortiser. Seems easiest to setup. Takes a little cleanup with a chisel though. Seems like it’s 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.

  9. Hi Glen I do most of my mortising with the router,I don’t think there is a smoother finish out there and very accurate.

  10. Hi Glen, I use a Powermatic bench top model 701 (a great unit but heavy) and I also use a Bill Hylton designed jig for loose tenon joinery that I made out of maple and adjusted the design to fit my router. This jig works great for mortises.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *