Favorite way to cut mortises - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 07-06-2020, 09:48 PM Thread Starter
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Favorite way to cut mortises

Over the years I have cut mortises a multitude of ways. By hand with chisels, mortising attachment on a drill press, hand held plunge router, router table. I have even built fixtures for doing large loose tenon mortises for entry and passage doors. Each way seems to have it's benefits and draw backs. I like doing them on a drill press with mortising chisels and was considering purchasing a cross slide vise to improve accuracy. Has anyone here done that and what was your experience? What is your go to method for regular box/slot mortises and why?
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post #2 of 13 Old 07-07-2020, 10:37 AM
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Prefer the mortiser. I've used the router and have also broke router bits. Have a jet but looking at a Grizzly mortiser and trying to decide if I really want the floor model....
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post #3 of 13 Old 07-07-2020, 11:09 AM
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I've done it just about every way possible, but switched to cutting the mortises with a router many years ago. I did a lot of floating tenon joinery, making my floating tenon stock on the table saw and planer. Then cutting them to size as needed. A very large job with over 1,600 total M&T joints that had to be interchangeable and sent to the buyer in kit form. This job sent me in search of a better and more reliable way of making M&T joints. I ended up buying a Leigh FMT Pro jig, since it has a fine adjustment for the tightness/looseness of joint fit. That one job more than paid for my FMT, and I now do all of my M&T work using it and one of my DeWalt 618 routers with it.

Floating tenons work very well, but the speed and accuracy improvement of using the FMT just makes doing them a pleasure now. It's been about 30 years since I last used the square mortising drill bit and chisel to make mortises and my table saw to cut the tenons. Then this always resulted in a whole lot of fussing and trimming to get each mating pair to fit. I'm never going back. It's the stone ages in comparison.

Using a router makes perfectly flat smooth mortise sides and exactly the same width mortise every time, if you do it correctly. Carefully making "floating tenons" the correct thickness using a planer makes the tenon making part of the job much easier and a better more repeatable fit.

The FMT is then the next step up from that. A CNC can't make them any better, but it may be faster in some cases. I can dial in the exact dimension of the tenon thickness so that the joint is a repeatable slip, but not tight or loose fit that is just tight enough, but with enough gap for the glue, and I can cut a hundred tenons this way and they will all fit the mortises the same way. If they are the same size and made with the same router bit, they will all interchange, so any tenon of that size will fit any mortise of that size properly on the whole job. Only significant changes in moisture content can affect this. I can make up a kit of parts for a project and plastic bag them, and they will fit together properly for the customer when they assemble them. Before the FMT I could not do this reliably.

Charley
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Last edited by CharleyL; 07-07-2020 at 11:16 AM.
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post #4 of 13 Old 07-07-2020, 12:27 PM
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I use a cross slide vise in drill press with mill end bit or router bit.
My procedure is go full depth on the beginning and end of the mortise
Then go back to the furthest hole away and crank the slide handle one revolution and drop the cutter, then raise the cuttter, then another rev on the handle and drop the cutter again.
I do this tll I get to the hole closest to. me Then I hold the cutter down at full depth and crank the slide away from me.. This cleans up the sides from all the up and down cuts.
this is all done with both hands at the same time

That's my favorite way with the tools at hand.
I have used mortise machines and I much prefer them.
If a manufacturer makes more than one model, do not buy the least expensive one. Buy the 2nd least expensive one or better.

My cross slide vise just about lives on the drill press so that becomes the fastest way for me to do it.
If I have a bunch to do, then the mortise machine shines in all it's glory.
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Last edited by Tony B; 07-07-2020 at 12:32 PM.
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post #5 of 13 Old 07-07-2020, 07:43 PM Thread Starter
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Looked at the Leigh FMT. A little steep for me right now for the amount I do. I designed a large jig for cutting loose tenon mortises for entry and passage doors. Perhaps I will make my own smaller model. On the drill press I always end up cutting my tenons oversize for the mortise and then fitting each one with a shoulder plane. I get excellent fit and results, but it is a long process. Retired now and only make occasional furniture pieces and cabinets. I still do my face frames for both cabs and furniture m&t, but not really a lot of volume. Thank you for your response, well taken.
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post #6 of 13 Old 07-07-2020, 07:59 PM
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I cut some M&T's in some hickory last year to see how stable it wood be. The legs were 4x4. The hickory tenon split the hickory In an acclimate rec room. Only thing I can figure is there needs to be more wiggle room than oak, cherry, maple, etc.

Glad it wasn't a finished piece, but???
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post #7 of 13 Old 07-07-2020, 11:48 PM
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I have bored mortises with a drill press and mortising attachment , by hand with mallet and chisels. My favorite way is using a shop made horizontal router table. The router is bolted to an arc, this determines height . I set the depth of the cutter to full depth. Thin packing builds the work away from the cutter so I mortise in different depths.
I use flip stops , fore and aft to determine the length of the mortise.
This method works best for me.
mike
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post #8 of 13 Old 07-08-2020, 12:46 AM
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There is an article in Woodworkers Journal.
October, 2017, pages 28 & 29.

The article explains how to build a fixture that is used with a plunge router to cut mortises. Simple to build, simple to use and cost is less than $25. The most expensive part is the plunge straight router bit.

It is worth looking at before spending a half zillion on a commercial one.
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post #9 of 13 Old 07-08-2020, 09:04 AM
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I use a mortiser because I was fortunate to pick up a floor mortiser at a good deal and I really needed it for a project at the time.

Had to do over, if I needed a mortising machine, I would go with a horizontal mortiser because it is a more versatile machine.

Routers can work, but personally I don’t like the setup and jig making it requires.

Robert
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post #10 of 13 Old 07-08-2020, 09:49 AM
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My favorite way .......

Quote:
Originally Posted by B Coll View Post
Over the years I have cut mortises a multitude of ways. By hand with chisels, mortising attachment on a drill press, hand held plunge router, router table. I have even built fixtures for doing large loose tenon mortises for entry and passage doors. Each way seems to have it's benefits and draw backs. I like doing them on a drill press with mortising chisels and was considering purchasing a cross slide vise to improve accuracy. Has anyone here done that and what was your experience? What is your go to method for regular box/slot mortises and why?

I haven't had many projects that required mortises, but this one needed over 30 of them;
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/memb...on-quilt-rack/


I started out using the Powermatic bench top mortiser that gets good reviews but quickly found that the first mortise required a lot of force to make, but the others were far easier. A drill press attachment would be worse, but some guys have great success with one. The drill press has a rack and pinion downfeed just like the bench top mortiers, but it's far weaker in design and the handles on the drill press do not give the same leverage because they are 1/2 the length of a benchtop motiser. The rack and pinion on my Powermatic is massive compared to my drill press.


I didn't care for the process on the bench top, so I decided to use a plunge router and a self-centering jig I made, which really was much easier and faster. See the link above:










I've never made them entirely using hand chisels, even though I have a good set of them from Robert Sorby. I guess I'm just too impatient for that much hand work? I was going to make several of those Mission Style quilt racks, but I couldn't even get time and materials for the one I did make. A commercial quilt store was only willing to pay me about 1/2 of what I thought it was worth.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 07-08-2020 at 10:58 AM.
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post #11 of 13 Old 07-08-2020, 10:16 AM
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Season 11 of The Woodsmith Shop featured an elaborate Combination Router Table. The router table plans include an accessory mortising attachment. The router table was featured in multiple episodes of the TV show, and also the magazine.

The downloadable plans are in Season 11, Episode 1105. Woodsmith Shop Season 11 plans are still available for free. (Probably not much longer. They keep three seasons available in the free plans list, and Season 13 finished a while ago.) If you are interested after the plans fall off the "free" list, you can buy them from their website.

The router table is large, and converts from vertical to horizontal. It is not a quick and easy project, but I saved the plans, thinking that I might build one someday. You have to supply an email address (any email address) to get the plans:

https://www.woodsmithshop.com/episodes/downloads/
https://www.woodsmithshop.com/download/1105/222
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post #12 of 13 Old 07-08-2020, 10:54 AM
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I pretty much used all methods others have mention. Since efficiency has become more important recently. I now use mostly a dedicated bench top mortise machine, Shop Fox and a Grizzly tenon jig.
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post #13 of 13 Old 07-08-2020, 01:48 PM
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Floating tenons that are made on the table saw and finished to thickness with a planer gets my vote if you are on a budget. Cut the mortises with a plunge router and the desired diameter of up spiral router bit.

Make the mortises using a router and edge guide, or a more elaborate shop made jig for holding the work piece and guiding the router bit. A friend of mine made a jig from cabinet plywood by roughly copying my FMT jig, but he installed stops for the mortise length and a slide to guide the router. He has been having great success with this jig and using floating tenons as I suggest here. I explained why I have an FMT Pro jig, but it isn't necessary if you go the floating tenon route as I explained here. Your M&T joints will be just as strong and almost as easy to make by going the "floating tenon" way. It doesn't require expensive tooling and most likely you already have what you need. If you don't have a planer, just a more careful table saw setup for tenon thickness and a good belt sander can make acceptably good floating tenon stock. It might just take a little longer.

If you plunge cut the mortise with a spiral bit, your plunge router, and an edge guide, do so in many overlapping plunges and then go back to clean out the remaining wood and smooth the mortise sides to the bit dimension, Let the bit diameter determine the width of your mortise. Use a planer to fit the floating tenon stock to the exact thickness needed for the mortise and then cut the floating tenons to length and width out of this material as you need them. Don't worry about the half round mortise ends. Just cut the tenon size to fit the length of the flat sides of the mortise. The strength of the joint is all in how well the flat sides of the tenon fit the flat sides of the mortise and the glue used. The unused 1/2 round mortise ends are a good place for the excess glue to go. The tenon gains almost no extra strength by being rounded to fit these ends closely. The joint needs to dry fit together without the need for a hammer, but not so loose that it falls apart on it's own. Anywhere in that region of thickness will produce a great joint. Use a good wood glue like Titebond or Franklin and you will never have a joint failure. I like Titebond II, but use whatever you prefer. I don't like Gorilla Glue because it isn't as strong and the foaming as it dries makes a huge clean-up mess. I use Titebond because it cleans with just water, until it dries, and then becomes water resistant.

A tip - If any glue squeezes out of the joint, leave it alone until it partially sets up and becomes a bit rubbery, unless it runs. If it does run, a significantly wet paper towel will remove the runs if you act quickly, but be certain to not leave any on the wood surface or it will affect your finishing steps. Then, when the glue in the joint is partially set up, a plastic soda straw end can be pressed against the joint and form to the shape of the joint (usually 90 deg). As you push the open end of the straw along the joint, the excess glue will be collected into the straw. A pair of scissors will shorten the straw and leave a fresh end to scoop the glue from the next joint. Repeat this as often as necessary to clean up all of the glue joints in your project. It is very rare that I need more than one straw for each glue-up.

Charley
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