General Int'l Mortiser 75-050 m1 follow up

Folks -
I've had the mortiser for about a week, and I'd buy it again.... My impressions are that it really is a well made machine - Taiwan, I think.... While there were no assembly instructions included with the machine, I had it running and was chopping mortises in 20 minutes, easy. I *did* hear from a DAGS someone else bitching about no assembly manual and having to go by the parts and pictures. Think drill press...
The mortising head is lowered on a rack and pinion set up and it rides on a beefy dovetailed column with 3 grub screws and brass wear adjustment insert.... nice.... The handle is plenty long and can be lowered so that the machine doesn't take up so much "headroom" when you store it. There are limit stops both for mortise head travel up and down, and the upper stop is a nice feature as well - you don't have much wasted movement, and it keeps the handle closer. The stop collars are locked with allen screws that presumably are replaced by the included pair of star style knobs. The material hold down is sturdy, easy to use and light. It's an aluminum "U" that clamps to the mortising head column dovetails. It is locked with a big star knob and nestles away or is easily removed for when you're changing bits.
The chuck is accessed via slotted stamped metal doors that drop down on either side of the quill. The chuck is smooth and locks down securely, but the action of the chuck key pinion to the chuck ring meshing is a little rough. The chuck key has a small holder on the right side of the mortiser column and the access doors' locks are star knobs. The chuck itself is locked in place by a ratcheting knob and comes with a brass bushing for larger chisel sizes. The machine comes with 4 chisels that are well made, honed and ready to go. A pair of allen wrenches are included for adjusting the mortising head dovetail grub screws and swapping out other allen head fasteners for the star knobs. Stick a small magnet to the mortiser column for storing them - there isn't any storage for the wrenches and they'll be underfoot and gone in no time...
Also included is a two-rod length stop that screws into the right side of the mortiser base. It would have been nice if they had set up the left side of the mortiser base the same way, so that you can mark from the other side for alternate side legs with an offset tenon. It would be easy enough to drill and tap a hole.
The fence was *absolutely* square in both directions and has a recess for the hold down. It doesn't rack when you tighten it up and it's easy to square your chisel to the fence for set up. The base does have a cut out for the chisel heads, so you don't have to worry about hitting ground zero. I think that the bases of all of the benchtop mortisers I've seen are too small, this one included. That being said, the base is beefy, flat and machined well, and the instructions recommend mounting it to a larger board that is clamped to the bench. A pair of cast and machined t tracks and bolts register the cast iron fence, and it is locked down with ratchet handles. There is a measuring scale mounted in a recess of the table for registering your work, one could assume, but you know how that goes.
Stock is held in place with a handwheeled screw and pad. You can't effectively clamp material much "narrower" than about an inch, as the centerline of the clamping screw is higher. While the mortising column is bolted to the base, I don't have the impression that you could turn the whole shebang 180 degrees for end cuts as you can, after a fashion, on the Delta. I'll get back to you when that becomes an issue. You'll want to use a backer board if you're doing through mortises - the cutting process is a brute, so there is tear out...
The operation of the machine is pretty basic. There's a sealed power switch and on the whole, the machine is quieter than I expected, both running and boring. For a centered mortise, I flip the stock end for end and see where the corners of the chisel land and then move the fence just a little, usually in the wrong direction. Some form of micro adjustment for the fence would be a nice feature and it would make dialing things in faster, but I haven't seen it on any of the benchtop machines. The ops manual says to orient the chisel opening opposite direction of the cut, but this thing throws out a deceptively large pile of chips. In the future I may orient the opening away from me and try some nonsense with the shop vac, but for now having a big pile of doug fir chips happily scattered about has the stronger hand.
The mortising head is counterbalanced by a gas door closer cylinder thingie - the assist is neutral - the mortising head stays right where you leave it, so don't clothesline yourself on the handle by leaving it down... The boring action does take a grunt sometimes to start the cut, but the action is smooth and accurate. My first cuts were in QSWO - the machine stalled twice, but it was due to a chip getting stuck, not for lack of power otherwise. I didn't have the drill to chisel clearance set properly when I used the 1/4 set and did darken the tip.... dammit.... I have been using the 1/2 bit on some door frames and am getting a better feel for things. I plunge the ends of the cut and "skip" so that I leave a small bridge of wood for stability, and go on down the line... then come back and cut the bridges. The drill bit has bored centered within the chisel for the 3 sets I've tried - no "thumbnail" cuts on the mortise wall. I understand that Delta's machine is sometimes not "concentric" and that you can shim the motor mount to correct it. I'll assume that would be the standard way to take care of it...
The mortised cavities are rough on the bottom, and the walls are serviceable. I think that I may have clamped too hard on occasion and that this distorted the cut on a few plunges. There are some small ridges from the "daisy chain" of the chisel, but the cutting action of the chisel was clean. I used a bench chisel to shave the ridges and it only took a moment. I don't know if it's something lacking in my technique, but I would estimate that there was 1/8 to 3/16 tall of hashy cuts at the bottom of the cavity. They could be cleaned up with a mortising or gooseneck chisel, but I'd like to have those portions of the cuts be cleaner without more handwork. I don't want to make too many overlapping passes, if that would help, because I don't want to "waller out" the sides of the cavity.
General is coming out with a tilting head version of this mortiser. I *really* needed a mortiser for some jobs and don't regret buying this one at all. I probably will look into if I can retrofit my machine - the cost difference, list, between the two models in about 80 bucks, so by the time everybody has made their mark and done everything I can't imagine that there is much of a difference between the two....
The machining, casting and finish were all better than I expected. All of the machined edges were clean and had been faired and there was a light coating of oil on all of the machined surfaces.
If I had to pick three things that stood out for me, I'd say it's the overall quality of workmanship and design, the easy chisel changing, and the plunge stops. If I could improve three things, I'd say having a better manual/assembly instructions, a larger base and a micro adjustable fence...
I never have used a MM until now, so have ZERO experience in comparing it to other machines, but I did a lot of research on this class of mortiser and am satisfied that I made the right choice. I have an ~10 year old General TS, purchased used and love it. My other tooling is a combination of blue, yellow and red.
I know it's easy to get stuck in the Delta/Jet/Powermatic et al, loop in evaluating tools, but you'd be short changing yourself if you didn't look at General's line of North American and Chaiwan tools. General doesn't have the distribution or ad budgets of the tool group corps, but I do think they have the iron where it counts, and for me, that's what counts.
No connection, other than the above, blahda-blada-da-da....
John Moorhead Lakeport, CA

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Nice review. A couple of things I did to mine which you may want to consider:
1. Remove the dust cover on the On/Off switch. That is a safety hazard and impedes your ability to shut the machine off quickly if ever needed - try it. It's easy to do and reversible if you decide to reinstall the cover later.
2. The fence on mine was not flat nor did it sit square to the table. A bit of Scary Sharp fixed that and since yours was perfect, they must have fixed that problem. The wheel and pad assy was defective on mine but they replaced it - finally. GI does not keep parts in stock in Canada and it took nearly 3 months to get a replacement from Taiwan.
3. The cast iron pad used for holding the stock against the fence tended to slightly dent some stock so I replaced it with a larger version made from ash. Since I made the pad about 8" long, I cut some slots in it so the U shaped stock holder bracket can be lowered. The pad doesn't need to be any larger than the original, I just made mine larger is all.
4. After a bit of use, the handle will tend to rotate when you pull down on it. Tightening the lock knob doesn't help much. After you're satisfied that the length of the handle is where you want it, mark the location, remove the handle and file a small flat on the bar at the proper location and no more twisting handle bar. You could also drill an indent so the lock screw can seat in it and prevent any twisting also.
5. Get the conical mortising chisel sharpeners from Lee Valley to keep those chisels sharp. They're a step up from the Delta's I have (well...anything would be a step-up from those I guess...)
Our very own David Eisan is the one that put me onto looking at the GI mortiser two years ago and your review was spot on. I did have a chance to play with both the Delta and the Jet when WWW was still around and the GI had features than either of those for only a little more money.
Bob S.


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How'd you deal with the slipping depth stop arrangement? The 75-075 has a metal cylinder with a threaded hole on the side for a star knob. Sucker slips when you honk down on the arm.
charlie b

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