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*
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
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
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
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....