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Thread: Benchtop Mortiser

  1. #1

    Benchtop Mortiser

    I have chopped a lot of mortises after drilling them, and I have made lots with a router and jig, so I have long been curious about benchtop mortisers.

    I played a bit with a mortising attachment on my drill press and was underwhelmed by the results: difficult to register cleanly to mortise from both sides for a through mortise, some real deflection problems that might have been remedied by lots of practice to name two.

    So when I saw the one below at Lee Valley, I found myself wondering if the dedicated benchtop mortiser was a tool that offered nice precision for various types of mortises.

    Here's the link that got my attention:
    Life is too short for dull sandpaper.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    West Lafayette, IN
    I just sold mine because of lack of use. I do them by hand if I have too, but prefer my Domino. I advise you to save your pennies for a domino.

  3. #3
    I love my Jet bench top mortiser. 3 things:

    1) I bought it on Craig's list for a lot less and I think they are out there used because people don't use them. i.e. I wouldn't buy new.

    2) There is a learning curve on sharpening the chisels for them.......makes all the difference.

    3) used mine yesterday and was thinking I am glad I have it.

    Just looked on local CL and saw a jet for $125. consider used IMHO, if yo don't like it sell it again.
    Last edited by Ron Citerone; 04-03-2018 at 10:11 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Huntington, Vermont
    I have a Delta benchtop mortiser for true mortise and tenon work, which for me is rare and associated with sash work and situations where an inserted tenon is impractical. I have a slot mortiser and have used a Domino and find them faster and easier where applicable. That said, many a long-lasting piece of furniture has been made in production shops with hollow chisel mortisers and the benchtop versions if made to a reasonable standard and setup with good tooling are sufficiently precise and far faster than drilling and chopping. A router will give a cleaner sidewall, but if you want a square ended mortise with a small investment...

  5. #5
    I've got the older Delta bench top mortiser. I do like it, and it is typically my first choice for making mortises. I have it permanently mounted to movable stand with my scroll saw, so it is convenient to use as well.

    The newer versions look like they fixed some less than ideal things in the one I have. I haven't used a Domino before, but it seems like you would have more options on a actual mortiser for size, width, length, etc. As Ron says above, it does take a while to get the hang of sharpening the chisels, as well as using the machine in general.

    The moving table on the Rikon looks kind of neat. Not sure it is necessary, but not a bad idea.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Griswold Connecticut
    I have a Delta 14-651 bench top mortiser. It works just fine. It has been modified to incorporate an x-y sliding vise and table, like the one you linked too.
    It's a little bit slow and time consuming, but it does a nice job.
    The bit about the chisels is true.You will need to learn to sharpen and hone the chisels and drill bits for optimum performance.

    If you ever put a sliding x-y vise on your machine, you'll be amazed at how much easier it is. It takes a little bit of alignment at first, but only the one time.
    Last edited by Mike Cutler; 04-04-2018 at 4:28 AM.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Woodstock, VA
    I use an older Fisch benchtop mortiser and it works great. I do a lot of restoration work so for me a domino is impractical. Even when building furniture I really like a through tenon so that also leaves the domino out.

    On a recent interior door build I had to resort to the drill press/chisel mode and it wasn't that slow but had I been able to use the mortiser it would have eliminated the chisel work.

    I do plan to give up the benchtop mortiser though, but only after I set up the giant Oliver 91 that's in the queue for restoration!

    I saw that one at Lee Valley as well, the x-y table would be a nice addition to one of these machines. The x-y table, sturdiness, and the expanded usable height are the things I look for to with the Oliver.

    I'll second the suggestion to find a benchtop machine used and give it a try. With careful set up I routinely cut 5" deep through mortises that fit well.

  8. #8
    Thanks for the insights -- in fact it is a set of tables with through tenons that has had me thinking of the tool. I'll start checking out the used market.
    Life is too short for dull sandpaper.

  9. #9
    ditto on the go used if you can and look for a sliding table... Also make sure they have both collets for the chisels cause they can be a pain to locate if its an older model...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Lewiston, Idaho
    I have a General International mortiser and it works well. I learned through experience that the chisel and bits must be "sharp, sharp, sharp"! I have a "sharpener" that will cut a new edge on the inner edge of the chisel and a coned shaped diamond hone that hones/refines that sharpened edge. Then I flatten the outer edges of the chisel similar to the method Neanders use to flatten the back of a standard bench chisel. Most often just honing the inner edges of the chisel and a light "flattening" will make a great difference ONCE the chisel has been initially sharpened. I use a jeweler's file to sharpen the flat/straight cutting edge on the bits.

    Setup is also very important to performance of a mortiser. The bit must be sticking ever so slightly below the leading edge of the chisel so one is drilling out the majority of the material before the chisel squares up the corners.
    Last edited by Ken Fitzgerald; 04-05-2018 at 11:38 AM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    1.5 hrs north of San Francisco, CA
    I've had the Jet & Delta benchtop mortisers and have been very happy with then both. Watch out, however, for "single point of attachment" fences (for easy adjustability) with play that allows adjacent cuts to be slightly out of parallel with one another.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Kansas City
    I too have a fairly new Delta, but I find that I still have to spend a lot of time cleaning up the mortise, with hand chisels and sometimes a router. My mortiser has a lot of play in it, so that sometimes the bit/chisel does not make a straight up and down cut. It's not as quick as I thought it would be, and the time to carefully set up and clamp for each cut is frustrating. Nevertheless, I still use it.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    As others have said, chisel quality and condition really makes or breaks this tool. A domino doesn't do everything (blasphemy) and my Mortise Pal still gets plenty of use for M&T work that is not so RTA in nature. As your target is a table with through-tenons I would favor a router and template for easy consistency. You could also consider false through tenons. Just my .02.
    She said “How many woodworking tools do you need?”
    I said “Why? Do you know someone who is selling some?”

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Cincinnati, OH
    A limitation of the Delta benchtop that I recently discovered when building 2 entry doors is that the maximum capacity is a little under 5" which was too small for the door stiles.
    Rustic? Well, no. That was not my intention!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Jacksonville, FL
    Also make sure you learn how much the drill bit needs to lead the chisel. Once common mistake is not using the correct amount of lead which puts more of the cutting process onto the chisel making things harder.

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