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Thread: Benchtop Mortising Machines

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Arvada, CO
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    Benchtop Mortising Machines

    I am considering a bench top mortising machine. I am a small hobby shop so a small machine should work fine for me. In terms of good-better-best, I am probably looking for a better machine.

    I was looking at the Shop Fox mortising machine as it has a feature that I really like - the ability to rotate the head so that I can drill mortises into the ends of rails. This works really well for me when I am building an entry door. I started looking at the reviews and there are a lot of really bad reviews spanning at least 8 years. The reviews are remarkably consistent regarding problems with the Shop Fox quality. Naturally, the leaves me very concerned so I decided more research is in order.

    So I am looking for a little input from those of you that have bench top mortising machines. What unit do you have? What pros and cons have you noticed about your machine?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    I have never tried mortising into endgrain with a hollow chisel mortiser. It may be a challenge to clamp the rails. Let us know how it works.

    I use a stationary slot mortiser for doors. The large Domino is a good choice though pricey for spline tenons.

    I would prefer a dovetailed column with adjustable gibs to the round columns on the Shop Fox, but if there is a good sliding fit and you keep them waxed or whatever they should work ok.

    I would avoid a machine with a lot of bad reviews unless I could get my hands on one and prove otherwise.

    I have a Delta benchtop machine which is ok for sash and furniture work but for doors you really want a heavier mortiser with a tall, stout fence, clamp and hold-down and a traveling table.
    Last edited by Kevin Jenness; 10-27-2021 at 5:19 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
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    The Woodlands, Texas
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    Hi Donn,

    I assume you are talking about the W1671. I have the Powermatic PM701. I have done a few projects with it, but not as many as I thought I would. I also added the height extension to get larger materials under it. I'm mainly working in white oak and doing furniture.

    My experience was that the chisels make a huge difference. I started with a set of Amazon chisels with "OK" results. You get some drift. Part of that is technique which gets better. Part of it is better chisels. There are a few threads on SMC regarding chisel selection, I purchased the Powermatic chisels, but I never got around to using them.

    Like anything it depends on what type of work you are doing. There were a number of things I couldn't do with the PM701 even with the extension, so it just kinda left my workflow because I purchased a Festool Domino XL. More recently a mortiser attached to a jointer/planer combo. I haven't sold the PM701 but I probably will. The Domino is much faster to work with, and the mortiser attachment for the planer handles larger items and I think will be easier to work with.

    If I really wanted to go the direction of a dedicated mortiser, I'd look at a floor standing model, or Erik Loza mentioned Felder has a great standalone model.

    Hope that helps.

  4. #4
    "Most" benchtop mortising machines are too light weight to be as good as their price would suggest. The clamps, hold downs, X-Y travel are all limited or light weight. If you want a mortising machine for connections that won't be seen, a Domino may be a better option. Otherwise a full size machine is the way to go. And I know it's already been mentioned but quality bits essential, especially on benchtop machines that may be under built.
    JMO

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
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    I have two benchtop mortisers, and a floor one. I need all three for a reproduction sash run. I looked for a link, but the two benchtops are no longer available. It is possible to do good work with them.

    Look at how easy they are to change the setup on. My smallest one requires an Allen wrench to change any setting on. For general use, I'd avoid that type.

    I like the Japanese Star brand chisel, and bit sets. It's the same one that LV sells as their Premium (or something like that) set.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Boston, MA
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    913
    I have the Jet JBM-5 because I originally loved craftsman style furniture. I blame Norm. Its been used a couple of times in 15 years. It works well but I mostly use a domino or a router to create mortices.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom M King View Post

    I like the Japanese Star brand chisel, and bit sets. It's the same one that LV sells as their Premium (or something like that) set.
    Nakahashi is the brand name, Grizzly also sells them as their premium brand.
    They are among the best

  8. #8
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    Sep 2006
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    Shenandoah Valley in Virginia
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    I have the Delta... not fancy, but it gets the job done nicely... made some very decent furniture with it...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
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    Lebanon, TN
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    I'm a hobbyist woodworker. Over the years, I'm come to realize that if you want a tool to do a good, consistent job, one that you'll always feel comfortable in trusting that it will perform the operation, without compromise, you had to stretch the budget a little.

    With that said, I own a Domino 500, a Powermatic PM719T (floor Standing) mortiser and a PantoRouter.

    I use the Domino when making cabinets or joining solid wood to make a table top or the like.

    I bought the PM719T to build Plantation shutters for the window in my house. These were large shutters (80" x 36") so I mortised and tenon'd the shutter frames. The PM719T performed flawlessly, but it could do a mortise in the end of a piece.

    I then came across the Pantorouter and it's a great little compact tool. If I wanted to M&T the end of a 2"x4"s, to join them end to end, no problem.

    I doubt I will ever use the PM719T again, I really ought to sell it, it's a great tool, but the Pantorouter can pretty much do everything the PM719T can and maybe a bit more.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    WNY
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    Unless you want to make square ended through mortises there are far easier ways to cut mortises. Chisel mortisers were state of the art 100 years ago but times have changed. The Domino, Pantorouter, Multirouter, slot mortiser, and my horizontal router mortiser are all faster, easier, and more accurate than a chisel mortiser. And one of them costs less than $100 to make. A handheld router works OK too with a guide template.

    https://sites.google.com/view/jteney...ser?authuser=1

    John

  11. #11
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    Dec 2007
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    Arvada, CO
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    Thank you. There is a lot of good information here. I am starting to think I might look around for a new mortising attachment for My drill press. I had a Delta mortising set that went with my old drill press when I sold it. It did not fit on the new drill press. Based on how much mortising I expect to do, the drill press attachment may be the best option for me. Besides, it frees up additional funding for other needed shop necessities.

  12. #12
    I would not replace my mortoser with a Domino under any circumstances...

  13. #13
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donn Morris View Post
    Thank you. There is a lot of good information here. I am starting to think I might look around for a new mortising attachment for My drill press. I had a Delta mortising set that went with my old drill press when I sold it. It did not fit on the new drill press. Based on how much mortising I expect to do, the drill press attachment may be the best option for me. Besides, it frees up additional funding for other needed shop necessities.
    As long as you're happy with the installation/deinstallation each time you want to use it and the very real fact that it's a very light duty solution that can work. Honestly, for occasional work, a router base solution might be more flexible. There's no rule that says the mortise has to have square ends.
    --

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

  14. #14
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    No real replacement for stiffness on these machines as provided by old, heavy as heck, cast iron mortisers.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Arlington, TX
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    Given the force required to advance even a very sharp hollow mortice chisel deep into hardwood, few drill presses have adequate leverage for the job.

    Additionally, the DP table/column/head geometry and construction generally lack the rigidity to maintain accurate chisel/mortise alignment when the requisite force is applied. Furthermore, the resulting misalignment increases the force required, compounding the misalignment.

    That said, heavy-duty DPs, with additional table support, and quality, sharp chisels, can punch small mortises in soft wood reasonably well. DPs have more swing (column-to-bit) than most dedicated mortisers, which can be useful, but also contributes to the rigidity issues.

    But if you like traditional through-tenon joinery, the only* alternative to a HC mortiser is hand-cut dovetails.

    *There are also industrial, swinging chisel mortisers that cut rectangular mortises.

    -- Andy - Arlington TX

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