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Thread: Hollow chisel mortiser

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
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    Cambridge Vermont
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    1,148

    Hollow chisel mortiser

    How many of you use one? For some reason I've always wanted one. If I did get one it would be a floor standing model like one of the Grizzly models or the Powermatic 719T. I'm slowly migrating towards making furniture and can envision using mortise and tenons to attach legs to a chair seat as well as other parts that aren't round. Is there any reason why you couldn't use it to drill holes? Just install a bit without the chisel? I already have a drill press but it serves double duty for wood and metal. Even though I have a wood platform I place on top of the metal table it still seams like my hands get oil on them forcing me to stop and clean my hands. It seams like the adjustable table on a mortiser would work well align the work to the bit. The speed might be a little fast for a larger bit but I'm not sure how much larger than a cabinet hinge I would need to bore and if needed I still would have my DP. Grizzly has their second to the top of their line mortiser on sale which got me into thinking about it again. How many of you really use them?

  2. #2
    I have a Jet benchtop mortiser but I don't use it. I got a domino and I like it a lot better. One issue with my mortiser is it lacks a clamp to hold the work. When I go to remove the chisel after the first cut, especially the 1/2 inch one (its largest), it is a struggle to get it out. I clamp the work down to the table and have tried a little wax on the chisel but it is still not a smooth or simple cut to make. Smaller chisels work better. Another issue is getting the drill bit aligned so it does not rub and heat up. I had that issue more often with the little 1/4 inch bit/chisel. Lastly, the mortises it makes are not nearly as smooth as you get from a router or the domino. That is the least significant but if you are making a through mortise it could be a bigger deal. I do not think the roughness is enough to affect joint strength, it just doesn't look the nicest.

    A floor standing model with a good clamp for the work plus presumably more leverage should help a lot, at least with 1/2 inch chisels. But if it takes bigger ones you could still have the issue. I do not have space for a floor standing mortiser. That is another thing I really like about the domino, it takes up no floor space and not much space. I have the XL so I can do 2 3/4 deep mortises. The biggest bit is 14mm but you can plunge it from both sides to make wider mortises. I haven't needed wider but I like longer more traditional mortises and I do that a lot. I have to make the tenons but that is what I mostly do anyway. I made some 6 inch long by 14mm mortises for a crib, for instance.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Shenandoah Valley in Virginia
    Posts
    534
    Do not think it would work very well as a drill press...
    When I was making furniture, it was nice to have.
    For my limited use it was a luxury but not needed...
    It is so easy to make mortises with just a drill press and square it up with a chisel.

    You may consider just getting a mortise attachment for your drill press... they work very well.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Lebanon, TN
    Posts
    1,079
    I bought the Powermatic 719T for a large Plantation Shutter project. As my shutters were large, I decided to use mortise and tenons, most with 3 mortises on each stile, which resulted in about 180 mortises.

    The PM719T made this a breeze, accurate and easily repeatable.

    The PM719 has quite a small footprint, so I roll it away for storage.

    I've used it for a couple of other small projects, but it doesn't get used that often as I also have a Festool domino.



    It's one of those tools I will not use frequently, but when I do it works perfectly.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    weaverville, ca
    Posts
    320
    i have a general floor model. Although i don't use it very frequently when i am doing mortise & tenon joints it is great to have. once it is set up the mortises are spot on, quick, and easy to get done.
    jerry
    jerry

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
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    1,148
    One of the reasons I was looking at the floor models was for the extra features (tilting, XY table, better clamping, adjustable stops, hold down clamps) and for more rigidity. I've read up on sticking with Japanese chisels and even then sharpening them. I've found myself to be more of the using a machine type of person. For example I doubt I'll ever make a dovetail by hand. I get the satisfaction those who do it I'm sure get but for me I'll stick with a Leigh dovetail jig. The same goes for using a chisel to square up a hole. I'll do it but I would rather have a machine that I can set up to do it.

    I've looked at the Domino but I'm not sure if it would work for what I want to do. For example how would you make a mortise in a seat for a wooden slat? The videos I've seen show the person using it resting it on a flat board and then pushing it into the wood. I see that it can be angled but what would you use on a curved seat? The best I could come up with is making some sort of jig. It's not a cheap tool so I've kind of steered myself away from getting something that required fiddling around with to get good results. The Grizzly that's on sale tilts side to side and the table tilts front to back along with the XY movement.

    I went through this before I bought an oscillating spindle sander. Again wanted a floor model. It turns out that I've already used it far more than I ever felt I would. I think the HCM would be like what several of you have said, I'm not going to use it often but when I need it I'll enjoy having it.

    When I said "drill press" this is kind of what I was thinking I could possibly do. Would I be able to make the round holes in these spindles with it? With the XY adjustment it would be much easier to move them exactly where I want the holes. On my DP I would have to keep adjusting the fence until it was in the right position and then clamp the spindle down while holding it from moving. Doing several for a chair could get tedious.
    55006.jpg

  7. #7
    I've used a hollow chisel mortiser but I've never felt the desire to purchase one. They do a decent job but, for the work I do, there are a lot of other ways to do a mortise. I, like others, use a Domino for most of my mortise applications. Where the Domino won't work, I will generally drill out the mortise and then trim with a chisel. If I can't do that, I'll chop it out with a chisel.

    Unless you're going to do a lot of M&T joinery I'd look at other ways of doing the mortises. For a lot of woodworkers, I suspect, the hollow chisel mortiser just doesn't get a lot of use.

    And if I was going to do a lot of mortises, I'd purchase a horizontal slot mortiser. Those are really slick.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Wayland, MA
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    2,293
    I have the General International floor model machine (75-075) and use it constantly. I would not mess around with any model that does not have an indexing table, they make all the difference in the world. Whichever one you get you should probably plan in budgeting for upgraded chisels and diamond sharpening cones. The chisels that came with mine required hours of prep work to make them useable and they still weren't as good as the "premium" chisels from Lee Valley. As with many machines, sharpening is key. I find the machine quick and easy to use.

    I've been trying to use the horizontal mortiser attachment on my Minimax J/P for the last couple of years, so far no joy. It's much slower and fussier to use with poorer results than the hollow chisel mortiser with any of the cutters I've tried.

  9. #9
    I have two bench top mortisers, a 15 year old Jet and a 20 year old Delta. I currently have the Jet set up for use and the Delta in storage. It is my preferred way to mortice. I used to do them by hand occasionally, but I don't have the time or inclination anymore.

    I use it regularly, as I tend to do a lot of Mission and Shaker style furniture requiring mortises.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
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    I did buy a set of diamond sharpening cones for the chisels. I've never used a HCM which is why I'm asking questions. I have used my neighbors oscillating chisel mortiser but it's a beast, requires 3 phase power and has a pneumatic clamp. It's fun to watch it drill a square hole but I'm looking for tools for a hobbyist.

  11. #11
    I have the PM benchtop mortiser.. It does everything I need for the small furniture I build as a hobbyist. When I need it for a project, Im glad to have it. If you have the money for a floor model and "want one", do it. I didn't, nor did I need that much capability.

    Yes, you could probably use it to drill (round) holes, but it wouldnt be my first (or second) choice.

    Enjoy your new tool!
    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
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    I use them because I make reproductions of old architectural parts that used mortise, and tenons everywhere. I have a couple of benchtop models, as well as a 719t, because sometimes I need multiple setups at one time.

    One thing you don't see mentioned is to put the slot in the chisel away from you, and use a shop vac to get most of the mess. The majority of it comes out of that slot, and by doing it this way, it keeps the view of what's going on open.

    Also, use good quality bits, like the Japanese Star brand, also sold by LV as their "Premium" sets. The drill bits come long. Take your time and cut them exactly right so you can seat them all the way home in the chuck. It's not unusual for the bit to get pushed up into the chisel otherwise, which not only won't clear chips well, but instantly dulls the chisel. That also saves a lot of the setup time when you need to changes sizes. You can then just stick them in all the way, and go.

    A well tuned one works easily. One with one factor off the slightest, and it becomes a PIA.
    Last edited by Tom M King; 11-14-2020 at 7:21 PM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    I owned one for a number of years but it largely collected dust because of the nature of most of my projects. I sold it to another local woodworker (who is also a 'Creeker, and it gets a lot more love. I use Domino for this kind of joinery at this point, but there are SO many different ways to do M&T, and I do occasionally do a traditional M&T joint with actual hand tools.

    As to the tool, itself, they can work very well if the chisels are properly sharpened and the combination of the chisel and drill bit is properly adjusted...let the drill bit do the work and the square chisel will clean things up nicely with nice, even pressure. As long as it's sharp.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  14. #14
    FWIW, the floor footprint of the Powermatic 719T and the cases for the Festool Dominoes is about the same. If youíre concerned about that sort of thing.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SoCal
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    20,919
    I also look at them often. I eventually come back around to where I started (until I start looking again later on). The router does a clean and predictable job for me. I do use a Domino for case work but, stretchers, rails, aprons and legs still get routed mortises with typical or floating tenons.
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

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