shop fox mortising machine / lots of noise?

I bought one this weekend (model 1671). I had heard bad things about the Delta and the JET, and this one was on sale. They are all about the same price, US$230.
I am making a workbench and it calls for some big mortises. I mortised the legs with a router and it was pretty tricky making 2"x3"x2" cuts. So I thought a machine would be easier for the leg stretchers. Since good hand-mortising chisels (like the ones Lee Valley sells) are about the cost of a cheap machine, I thought I'd try technology first and expect to do some minimal by-hand cleanup.
Setup was easy, the only problem was that the threads for the fence weren't tapped properly and had to recut them to match the bolts they sent. I thought the holes were just full of paint, but they weren't cleanly cut.
I installed the 1/2 chisel (included) and turned it on, and it rattled like crazy (the instructions say it may make noise, but it was really loud). I checked and the bit was clearing the chisel at the bottom. Since there was no way for me to adjust the position of the bit inside the chisel I just assumed this is a side effect of a $200 power tool from China.
My first mortise into a 2"x2" piece of hard maple (laminated by smaller 4/4 stock) sent out a ton of smoke. There was a lot of head flex, too, so I went slower and in smaller passes on the next one. The smoking stopped, but it took a large amount of effort to push into the maple. I was really torquing it down. I continued this way cutting eight 1.25"x5"x1.5" mortices. I left the 1/8th in strip in the middle and cleaned it out with a chisle, because I heard that the mortise chisel can veer off if there isn't at least 3 walls of support.
I was really surprised at how messy and uneven the mortises were. It was a brand new chisel, I expected cleaner edges, not ripped shredded wood. By comparison, my previous routed moritices were smooth as glass (but had rounded insisdes and took forever to set up each cut).
I also noticed the head flex got progressively worse. I had to stop and retighten the bolts on the bottom of the guide rails. Not an easy task since it weights ~80 pounds.
Is this common, or are <$1000 mortise machines garbage? Do mortising chisels always hit the edges of the drill? Is there a way to fix this?
It did a mediocre job after cleanup, and since I won't see the mortises anyway, the place where 1/32" jaggies where the chisel didn't exactly line up on each cut are OK, I was just expecting it to stay together a little better. I haven't cut the tenons yet, hopefull the massive head flex didn't result in slanted (not parallel to the edges) mortices.
Any comments? Should I be doing something differently? I hear the flex in the jet and delta are about the same.
peaceout, ITD
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I own the Delta.
A few tips....
The chisels need to be razor sharp.
The bits need to be sharp as well.
With the exception of the first hole, each pass should be about 1/2 the chisels width.
The noise your talking about is metal to metal, very bad. I adjust my bits so they protrude about 1/16 from the bottom of the chisel. The idea is that the bit hogs most of the wood, chisel shaves the sides. As this needs a fair amount of precision, check the drill bit and chisel to insure they are strait.
The flex comes from taking a "to aggressive" cut. The smoke is most likely dull cutters, and maybe a "to aggressive cut."
This tool is one of the best time savers I own, as I've cut these by hand for many years. Learn how to sharpen the bits, you won't regret it, promise.

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On 27 Feb 2005 12:47:18 -0800, the inscrutable snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com spake:

Mine was perfect out of the box.

I hear noise only when there is a chip of wood on the bit. I really need to buff those auger bits, but a coat of Johnson's wax helped.

Yeah, I was surprised at how tough it was to use at first. Now I'm used to it, but I keep things sharp. That really helps.

Mine are much smoother when I take the time to clamp the board to the fence, eliminating the. Some day soon, I'll install the x/y vise and fix that for good.

Mine has remained tight, but I always check/torque every bolt on a new machine the day it goes into use.

Check your head for paint. If the chisel is leaning against the bit, it will make noise. Watch the auger tip as it comes to a stop. Is it straight, or does it wobble? If wobbly, it -will- be noisy.

The play in the fence is the cause of that.

I've heard that the Shop Fox was less flexible. I'm really happy with mine.
-- "Menja bé, caga fort!"
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In the end, it seems as though it was no better choice.

It should run almost a quiet as a drill press. Sounds like a bad bit/chisel, or both.

Dull bits and chisels. Common. Sharpen them before next use. You canhone the sides of the chisel with any stones you now use. A small file will tough up the bit.

I've not experienced that. It is a poor tool if you had to leave a space for hand work later.

That should not be. Maybe you should check out the return policy.

No, they should work as advertised. Yo may not have had the bit extended out far enough?

To eliminate the jaggies, get the chisle perfectly square to the material. Put the wod agains the fence, but set back. Lower t he head, line up the chisel to the wood, now raise the head and put the fence in proper location.

It should. I've not had to tighten anything.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:
...bad story re Shop Fox benchtop mortiser...
Compared to your saga the (slightly) the Delta (forget model no, one w/ the metal table) I went w/ sounds positively wonderful...only minor assembly problems and column is pretty solid for a small, relatively inexpensive machine.
Sounds like a lot of the problem is misalignment of chisel and probably not really sharp. Both the chisel and the drill need to be honed and sharp. If they're soft, may need to retouch them frequently.
Is the Shop Fox one of those that has a 3450 rpm motor instead of 1750? I recall that being a difference in the review in FWW a few months ago...the higher speed will contribute to burning much more readily.
Overall, I've been reasonably pleased w/ the Delta. Done a lot of fairly large (1/2 x 3-1/2 x full chisel depth) in old <very> hard yellow pine (much harder to machine than maple) in reworking the barn doors and have no complaints over than retouching the chisels frequently. Quality of mortise is adequate although there is some roughness over the length as it isn't easy to control the large pieces precisely...only takes a little hand cleanup, however and is much simpler than any hand technique and, imo, simpler than fooling w/ the router/jig combination.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote in
...

It sounds like (from the sound) that the bit may not have been adjusted correctly. The end of the auger bit should protrude a bit from the bottom of the chisel, and it should form a slight gap so that chips from the auger can travel up the screw and eject out the side of the square portion. If you don't have that gap, it makes a heck of a squeal ... and the chips clog the head, resulting in lots of burning. Too much burning and you'll temper and soften the chisel.
There's a good explanation and method for setting the gap on this web page: http://home.comcast.net/~charliebcz/MChiselBitSettingTrick.html (I think Charlie is a frequent contributor here -- I hope he won't mind me posting the link to his page).
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Thanks for the tips.
Regarding the noise: Even with the bit extending 1/2" it still rattles like crazy. I also tried all four bits in the Shop Fox chisel set I bought, all noisy. I thought maybe the bushing isn't seated properly, but it seems to be OK.
Looks like I'll be returning it this weekend for another one! Or at least, see if the machinery store can explain what the problem is.
Thanks again.
Nate Perkins wrote:

rattled
really
bottom.
inside
tool
adjusted
bottom
auger
If

chips clog

temper
page:
mind me

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Quick follow up:
I just received an email from the Shop Fox technical support, and they told me explicitly that the auger will always make a rattling noise because of the tight fight, and that it is "perfectly normal" for it to make this noise. I'd post the email, but there's a legal disclaimer that I am not to redistribute the mail.
Anyhoo... thought I'd add that nugget.
Thx.
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Why not make a recording of the sound and post that somewhere for people who have a Shop Fox to listen to?
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