I just got a LN 12" Delta at an auction for $80.
Ebay has a mortising attachment locally. Do they work, or are they just
I have never actually made a motise, so it is hard to say how many I will be
I have a mortising attachment. I've used it a few times. Yes, it
works, but it's not the end-all woodworking device. By the time I set
it up and make a few test holes, I didn't find it to be a huge
improvement over drilling holes with a forstner bit and chopping out
the ridges with a chisel. If I had it to do over again, I'd wait until
I had a need to make a lot of mortises, then buy a dedicated mortice
machine. You really should chop a few mortises by hand first anyway to
appease the woodworking gods.
"Every man is my superior in that I can learn from him." - Thomas
The Delta Mortisers do not fit all drill presses. I bought one a few years
ago and returned it after it would not fit my older Craftsman machine. I
subsequently used one on a friends machine. Impressions:
1) It is a compromise compared to a stand-alone mortiser. It will do the
job but the shorter handles on most drill presses require quite a bit of
force to achieve a mortise in hardwood.
2) Attach and teardown takes time and disables the drill press as a drilling
machine during mortising. This can be overcome by planning but still a
The mortiser does its work by leading in with a drill bit and squaring the
corners with the intergal square chisel. For occasional mortising you can
do the same thing in two steps. Attach a fence and carefully drill a series
of holes of the correct width; then square corners and clean excess between
holes with a sharp chisel. If you find yourself mortising more a dedicated
machine is a good investment.
By the way, Harbor Freight sells a dedicated machine for about $100. Not a
jewel but it cuts square holes and comes with decent chisels. The hold down
hardware is crappy but the machine provides a better option than the drill
press attachment (IMHO).
I made my Delta fit my Craftsman. It uses iron inserts in the chisel
holder to grip different sized quills. I just spent some quality time
with a half-round file to make it fit.
I make a lot of 3/8" mortises in (mostly) cherry. The force doesn't
seem excessive to me. I have considered a stand-alone mortiser, but
never acted on it.
Practice makes it go faster as well.
I don't bother trying to use the hold-down on the Delta. I just use
the Armstrong method.
One of the odd ways I use the mortiser: I'm making a 1" x 1/2" hole in some
wheels and handles. I drill two 1/2" holes with a brad point bit 1/2" apart.
I use a hand chisel (sometimes) to do a rough cleanout of the hourglass
in the middle. Then I set up the mortiser with just the chisel, and use it
to clean up the hole. I can index the first pass on the two drill holes,
and ease up on the ends to square them off. I can't just set up the whole
rig and make two holes, because I don't have a reference face on the
workpieces to square up to.
Michael and MJ Houghton | Herveus d'Ormonde and Megan O'Donnelly
email@example.com | White Wolf and the Phoenix narrowwares
I bought one for my Delta DP. It works ok with 1/4" chissels. Larger
chisels require taking smaller bites in hardwood. It is not as difficult to
set up as some claim once you get the hang of it.
I use it only when I can't use my router to make mortises (which isn't very
often). I rarely need it, but when I do need it, it is nice to have.
As an aside (not to hijack your thread) can't you get by without it for most
I find it interesting that Ol' Nahmie uses a mortiser very frequently, but I
have yet to see David Marks use one for ANY of his projects. Marks almost
always seems to use his router for mortising and the stuff he makes is not
Bit of a difference in style. Norm generally makes traditional M&T joints.
If he were to use a router, he would have to square one or round the other.
Marks uses loose tennons almost exclusively. He also almost always uses a
Multi-Router, a tool most of us do not and will not have.
Mortise and tenon is one of the strongest joints in woodworking.
Mortising attachments work well, but they take time to set them up
properly and when set up you can't use the drill press for anything
else. Buy quality mortising bits (yes, they are not cheap).
I eBay'd my DP attachment, and now do all my machine-made mortises
with a plunge router or my router table. Every January, I go through
my tools and off the ones that I don't see having future utility. My
DP mortiser missed the cut two years ago.
I like the bigger freestanding mortisers, but don't see where I can
justify the space or cost. Especially when I want a wide drum sander,
like a Performax 22-44. <G> The benchtop machines I've used in
various shops haven't seemed any more useful than a plunge router and
I would have to agree with Barry, I have a Delta mortiser and it has yet to
be used. I am thinking ebay with it soon. I see using my router for any
mortise to be made in my future. You use one with a plunge base. Support the
router base with a 2x4 on each side of the end grain you are wanting to
mortise and plunge away.
I find the mortising attachments to be aggravating to set up and use.
I quit trying a long time ago. I also have a dedicated mortising
machine, which I rarely use. I've also used the PC mortise/tennon
templates which is slick for short tennons, not so hot for long
tennons. I have reverted to making mortising jigs for my router, and
almost exclusively do it this way. I have several jigs that are
Because I had access to all these items, I could test them to see what
I liked the best. custom jigs and a router wins every time, in my
It really depends on how many you'll end up doing. I had a standalone
mortising machine for a long time and I hardly ever used it, I ended
up selling it to a friend who uses it a lot more than I ever did. I
think that it, whether it be dedicated or an attachment, is something
that's only really useful if you use it a lot, otherwise there are
ways to make the occasional odd mortise that don't take much more time
and that don't take up space or cost more money.
I think the drill press attachment is not worth the aggravation.
I bought a Jet mortising machine with high hopes that I'd start using
M/T.. In the end though, I hardly use it.. Most of what I do is plywood
cabinents with face frames, and pocket screws are so much easier and
Before you buy anything, think about the projects that you will
actually use it on. My mortise machine and Tenon Table saw jig collect
a lot of dust.
I bought a Delta mortise machine a while back from Rockler. It was
backordered, and while waiting, I cut the mortises for the important
project another way. After the machine arrived, it sat for 4 months or so,
without being opened.
One of the guys in my woodworking club bought it for what I owned it for,
unopened. I've not missed it.
I did buy a LN mortise chisel, though. That gets used a lot.
Like many, I bought a mortise attachment (cheap, used) only to find it
didn't fit my drill press.
Then I analyzed the parts. My drill press has less than 2.5" of
spindle travel, and a mortise
chisel might reasonably make 4" cuts. The force to press a 1/2"
mortise chisel into wood
is larger than a paring cut with a 1" chisel going perpendicular to
grain, which is a task
I usually use a mallet for; my drill press isn't (I disassembled it to
be sure) really intended
to apply that much force.
And the drill press column, with higher than intended force, might not
be up to the load,
i.e. might be too flexible. The Delta dedicated mortiser has a
different kind of column.
It's not an insurmountable problem, I've doodled up a design with
that has zero flex on the column, and with the right cable you can put
a ton of force
on the cutterhead- might even build it some day.
For the foreseeable future, hand-cut will be just fine for my needs.
I've hand-cut some mortises, and with a Forstner bit start it isn't too
for a bevel chisel (no, I haven't got a REAL mortise chisel in the
toolbox), and even
in plywood and softwoods.
By the way, I highly recommend doing practice dovetails in plywood
and in softwood; it's instructive, and doing one in oak afterward is
SUCH a relief!
I have the Delta drill press mortising attachment. After having bought
it, I came to realize that the drill press is not really well suited
for this type of work. As others have mentioned, set up is tedious and
your DP is tied up until you break it down again.
I have seen the Beadlock loose tenon system (http://www.beadlock.com /)
and, although I haven't bought it yet, it looks like a great idea. They
try to sell you the tenon stock but I think I would just opt for the
router bit and make my own. Anyone here tried this system?
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