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Greg Luckett

Mortise & tenon joints

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I just finished up a small job for a client which required making mortises in a replacement cupboard door rail. The mortising attachment for the drill press did not work well, so I did it the old fashioned way: drilling and chiseling. It came out fine but was time consuming. Thankfully the chisels were already nice and sharp.

Now for the next question. I am preparing to build a dining room table and chairs. The chairs have a lot of mortise and tenon joints. Do those bench top mortising machines work any better than the drill press add on attachments?

I know I can do the job with a router but that method does not easily make square mortises.

Thanks. :)

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No experience with either one, but I've heard the little dedicated machines are much better at making mortises than the drill press attachments. If I had a bunch of mortises to do, I would definitely get a dedicated machine.

The attachments are so attractive, though ... just add them to your drill press. But I guess they just don't work well.

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No experience with either one' date=' but I've heard the little dedicated machines are much better at making mortises than the drill press attachments. If I had a bunch of mortises to do, I would definitely get a dedicated machine.

The attachments are so attractive, though ... just add them to your drill press. But I guess they just don't work well.[/quote']

No, I don't think they do. I would almost sell you my almost virgin set for the shipping cost Frank, if you want to try them, but that cost is close to the new price anyway...as a guess. I think I will check with the local wood working guild and see what can be learned.

Thanks,

Greg

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I bought a bench top morticing drill press for the shop at work. It isn't as good as the much more expensive stand alone type, but with care in use it works quite well. I can take a photo of it and get you more info if you like. I believe it cost a couple hundred dollars.

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Sorry - can't help on this one Greg. Almost every mortise I use nowadays is a loose one with the mortise cut in both sides and a slip tenon glued in. I use a router and just leave the edges round.

Otherwise I chop them with a mortising chisel and drilling.

Also, I do a LOT of plate joinery these days.

But of course, on the boats, most of that is not used anyway.

:lol:

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When I say 'stand alone' I mean a floor model drill press expressly built for mortising. Some even have indexing tables like a milling machine so that you can set up stops and make the exact same mortise repeatedly. I made end pieces for English garden type furniture for a while and had a set of jigs and used stop settings to repeatedly make the same piece over and again. My father acquired this drill press when he bought out a small woodworking shop. I suspect that today one like it would cost a couple thousand.

The bench top one is much simpler. It can accept 1/4" thru 3/4" mortising bits. You need to either mark out the ends of the mortice manually or make your own jig that attaches to the bench. It has a sliding fence so that you can center the mortise on varying width material. Or off-center it as required. It has a hold down bar to make extracting the bit from each plunge easier. I use it at work to make doors, usually for cabinets but did make a locust 4 panel foc'sle door to match the other on a Concordia 39 yawl last winter. It saves some serious time when making doors.

It all comes down to how often you make mortise and tenon joints and your budget.

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Charlie is talking about a feathered tenon. The "feather is an oval or rectangular piece that fits into 2 mortises, one in each piece of wood being joined. I have been talking about blind or through tenons which are part of one of the 2 pieces. The tenon can be cut into the piece in several ways from the one pass tenoning machine or many passes on a table saw and numerous ways in between.

Mortise and tenon joints can be pinned, wedged, glued or combinations of. The windows and doors of long ago were usually blind tenon joints ( the tenon does not break through the mortised piece) and were pinned to allow for expansions and contractions without damaging the joint. Pinned joints are much stronger in the direction of shearing the tenon rather than pulling it out.

Door and window joints were oriented to counter the direction of greatest stress. An example of this is the bottom rail of a double hung window tenons into the stile as it is pulled down and would otherwise pull the joint apart. Most people misname rails and stiles as being: rails horizontal and stiles vertical when in fact they are named for which component of the joint they contain: rail is tenoned and stile is mortised. In most cases rails are horizontal and stiles vertical as this orientation is usually more sound, hence why many think the direction is the definition.

In very stable woods like teak, or in cases where the product will be very well sealed against moisture the joints can be done in either direction and glued. As little expansion or contraction will ever occur the joints are safe from damage due to grain in opposite directions working against each other.

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for my money ill stick with the router a few years back one of the guys in our boat building club got a morticing tool and it was no better than a drill press good luck

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for my money ill stick with the router a few years back one of the guys in our boat building club got a morticing tool and it was no better than a drill press good luck

I agree with this. Thanks for the advise, to each of you. It has saved me several hundred dollars.

:D

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I  hear good things about the table top mortisers, as long as you don't buy the cheapest one out there.

I looked for a long time and finally stumbled across this one. An OLD Wysong mortiser. This one was originally a line-shaft machine and someone converted it over. I had plans on improving the drive but the silly looking thing just works so I haven't done much but grease it and use it.

mort2.jpgmort1.jpg

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Greg, 

For small jobs the dedicated mortiser is not worth the money.  Make yourself comfortable at the bench and enjoy the hand work.

For bigger jobs including chairs with a lot of mortises then they pay for themselves.  The bench top models may work for you but check into the reputation of whatever models your looking at.  Some tend to be underpowered and won't work any better than the drill press.  Being underpowered is probably the downfall to most drill press attachments.  I use a Power Matic that rolls around to where I want it at the time.

It seems to do quite well and is very versatile.  I still like doing small jobs,  a few moritses,  by hand.  Even using the dedicated mortiser takes a bit of cleanup work by hand but does save a lot of time.

Don't buy the cheepest but the strongest more powerful ones that you find.

Gary

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