I'm making a large mission-style mirror frame. The sides are 6" wide
and will be mortised to receive tenoned 3.5" rails. I'd like to make
pinned tenons and in order for the pin to be located near-ish the
center of the side piece, I'll need to cut pretty deep mortises (2-3
inches). The mortises will be 3/8" wide. What is the best way to cut
these mortises? I have a plunge router, but I don't know if there are
bits that can go this deep. Drill out most with a forstner bit in my
drill press, then clean up with a chisel?
I would consider marking the limits of the mortises on both faces with a
knife and mortise each face with a plunge router 1" deep. Then clean up the
middle with a forstner bit and a chisel.
I am just as likely starting the mortises with a chisel on both faces to
define the mortises and then drill out the rest.
A couple of practice joints would be appropriate anyway.
Chris Schwarz has a good article in the current Woodworking magazine on the
subject. It is worth a read.
In a previous issue, they did a craftsman mirror you might want check out.
You can get the articles on line.
Since the tenons are not through tenons I think I'd stick with a mortise of
maybe an 1 1/2 to 2 inches, rely on the glue, and use decorative pins. This
rather than try to do blind mortises 4 inches deep (1/2 of 6" plus an inch
so the pin has something to pass through). The forstner bit should suffice
for this task.
Thanks for all the good advice! I'm going to try a less-deep mortise
and just offset the pin closer to the inside of the stile. After
checking out the Stickley piece and also the mirror in Woodworking
magazine, I think I actually like that look better than the design I
had first imagined.
Be aware that mortise and tenon joinery has some rather specific, time
tested dimensions for best strength/results over the life of the piece.
Considering that the traditional depth of a stopped mortise for maximum
strength is 3/4 the width of the leg/stile, it is unlikely that even an "end
mill" used in your plunge router (available in much longer lengths than
router bits) will be able to get you to that depth (4 1/2" in your case).
IME cutting lots of mortises, your best be in this instance is your last
sentence above. Cleaning up drilled holes, with a good sharp mortise chisel
made for the task, is not difficult at that depth, and it will have the
added benefit of giving the authentic dimensions of the placement of your
You can just do a standard depth mortise and then do any of the
- Set the pin on the visible face offset toward the seam of the joint.
Actually very common in Stickley, Greene and Green, etc.
- Set the pin from the rear face so you get the strength of the pin 50
years from now when the glue has failed.
- Optional, put a faux pin on the front face at the center if you
really want that symmetry (sp?)
See from the Stickley site. Here is a mirror with pins offset near the
Maybe this is the long way around, but couldn't you make up the sides
from 3 pieces of thin stock, gluing them together, while leaving out
material where you want the mortises to be?
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