I am a relative novice, but really enjoy woodworking and more specifically
making mission style tables and such. Working in redoak 100% of the time,
and until now using biscutes, dowels and screws for join pieces together. I
am looking now for a benchtop mortiser (already bought LV set) and looking
between Powermatic 710 and Steel City machine mostly based on reviews of all
units that I have seen.
Anyone have experience with either, and /or any known pros and cons or
thoughts about other machines that I should be looking at? Pricepoint of
around 400 is not a problem, not sure if I could justify going above that.
Thanking you in advance
Last time I saw a test of Mortiser's in a magazine, the bigger Delta won
out. The one with the metal base / fence. I think the model number is
651. I have seen them selling for $250. You might want to save a bit
of your $400 and buy some extra bits.
Years ago, I tested these for a magazine, but the improvements in the
decade or so since have been list wide, so they are ALL better now.
Steel City is making excellent tools, and I very much like the specs
of their mortiser, though I haven't tried it. I've got about the same
comment on the Powermatic 710. I liked the original ShopFox mortiser a
great deal, as I did the Delta. I'd say among those four you shouldn't
have a major problem doing what you wish as long as you keep your
chisels sharp. I prefer the low RPM (1725) models though they are a
bit slower. They burn the wood less often, IME. You'll get some
argument: others prefer the power and speed and justifiably say that
sharp chisels and good technique reducing burning to almost nothing,
regardless of speed. That's true, but we're not always in an ideal
situation, chisels get dull and our attention isn't 100%,
and...whoops, burn marks that might interfere with sold glue-up and
ruin a chisel. So, I'd go low speed. Half a horse is plenty for a
hobbyist, maybe more than enough. Three-quarter horse impresses your
friends more, maybe, but it is not really essential.
Good luck. Let us know your pick.
As a hobbist, can"t justify the space or cost of a dedicated mortiser when a
router, an upcut bit and a simple home made jig does such a good job.
If it was a production application, different decision.
Years ago, I had a dedicated mortiser and I rarely ever used it. It
just sat there taking up space and gathering dust, I used the router
and tablesaw for making just about all of the mortise and tenon joints
I needed. I ended up selling the mortiser to a friend who, I assume,
uses it a lot more than I ever did. Or maybe it's still gathering
dust, I should ask,
I have been wanting a dedicated mortiser for a long time. Currently I
use a Delta mortising attachment to my drill press. The setup takes
about 10 minutes or so, then I don't have use of the drill press until
I remove it. If I have just a few mortises, I'll make them by hand
using a chisel/mallet.
As a hobbyist, there is no rational in using a dedicated mortiser. As
stated before it will gather dust most of the time.
I have one and I use it as I need it. Yes it does gather dust and rust.
I also have two routers, carbide bits, templates, jigs and an array of wood
Depending of what I am doing and when safety is an issue, at time I find it
faster to just use a wood chisel or the mortiser machine. When I already
have the template and fixture I'll use the router. Sometime, I'll make a
template for a specific job. Other time, when making larger project I set
up each router for a specific dimension and the mortiser for another
dimension. This way I always obtain the same results until the project is
PS, I learned that the array of tools you have is related to the
availability of time, space and accessibility of lumber
There's also the case of work style and projects.
I've used a router for years on typical tables and chests. It works
However, I've been doing lots of Mission, Craftsman, and Stickley
style pieces, as well as custom entry and screen doors recently, that
have LOTS of mortises. Some are large and all the way through. The
dedicated machine is a Godsend!
I personally didn't see the benefit of the benchtop dedicated
machines, but do get lots of use from a freestanding machine. There
isn't much a typical benchtop machine can do that a jigged router
Dedicated machines can do angled mortises much better than a jigged
router, but less better than a Multi-Router. If the angled mortises
are occasional, do them by hand, otherwise a dedicated machine can be
worthwhile. If you do mostly angled mortises, check out the
I am fortunate to be able to use a shop area at work, where I currently have
a DeWalt 10" saw, A Grizzley 6" Parallel Jointer, 12" planner, 12"miter saw
with HTC stand, all related power tools (circular saw, jig saw, routers,
sanders) 6 tables for glue/stain/assembly areas with an additional 4000 s/f
if needed. I recently purchased another 500 b/f of red oak after going
through my initial 150 b/f.
Having built around 30 pieces of mission style pieces and preparing my next
set of projects that include a mission style love-seat as well and a
desk/hutch for my office along with a couple of book shelves. These are the
reasons that I am considering the mortise machine. I am looking to raise my
skill level another notch and produce nicer pieces, although I still
consider myself a beginner, I guess I should quantify that as a beginner in
the custom furniture arena.
From the posts I have seen some very nice jigs for the router, but I only
recently picked up a plunge router and have yet to even try it out. Of all
my power tools, I am the least comfortable with the router when using it for
anything other than edge profiling hence the mortise machine.
I am fortunate to cut threes and have the portable saw mill cutting it to
4/4 and 8/4.
Then I let the lumber to air dry for 2 to 4 years. This way I always have a
good supply of rough lumber.
I do lots of shaker designs and also my own. I appreciate the use to the
I have look at the Multi Router and find it very interesting.
A good bench top hollow chisel mortiser will stand you in good stead if you
continue on your Mission/ A&C bent. I have a Multi-Router, but still find
many uses for my Delta 14-651.
From just looking at it in the showroom, the lower priced Delta model is not
worth the money.
I don't see the cheap one on their web page now.
I have the 651. Can I justify the money spent? Not really. I had a job to
do, had a few bucks in my pocket so I got it. I've used it on a few
projects and yes, it does save time and does a better job that drilling and
hand chisels to clean it out. Most of us hobbyists can't justify most of
the tools we have if ROI is a factor.
I agree. However, as an under $300 tool, I figure mine has paid for itself a
couple of times over doing hundreds, if not thousands, of mortises for A&C
spindles ... not to mention its unique ability to serve multi-purposes:
Late again to this thread but here goes
Do you need to do through mortise and tenon jointsn for both their
strength AND a "design element" or do you just want to use mortise
and tenon joints because of their strength? It wasn't unusual for
original Arts & Crafts/ Stickley / Green & Green / Mission pieces
to have "fake" through tenons and pegs, applying or inletting "tenon
ends" and peg heads.
Chisel and bit mortisersare great for chairs and tables - not useful
for shelves or any other piece that requires cutting a mortise more
than maybe four inches from the edge of a board. What types of
pieces do you plan on using a mortiser on?
Now to what features make a chisel and bit mortiser nice to user
and a PITA if they're not available.
1. An XY table.
Chisel and bit mortisers require that the fence be set to one
side face of the chisel (or the side face of the chisel set to
the fence) in order to cut mortises with sides parallel to the
fence. Having an XY table allows you to bring the fence to the
chisel to set the chisel, then move it to where you need to
cut your mortise.
You then need to align the chisel to your mortise layout lines
- one side and one end. Be off just a little and errors start
accumulating - often making parts not fit together correctly.
Again, an XY table makes that pretty easy. Not having an XY
table can make alignment a PITA.
With an XY table, you can set left/right and in/out stops.
One they're set repeating mortises on a group of parts
requires no additional set up.
2. The Hold Down and Hold In
You want to hold the stock down securely AND against the fence.
If the part can move up/down you're apt to cause the chisel
to get stuck in the stock and can be a hassle to get out - AND
can screw up the bit to inside of chisel gap - which is pretty
small to begin with.
You also want to make sure the reference face of the part
stays firmly against the fence. If it moves away from the
fence it can a)screw up your mortise AND mess up you chisel.
3. If while moving up and down, any movement other than up and
down can damage the chisel and bit set and screw up your
mortise. You're going to be applying a fair amount of force
and the up/down control is pretty important. You'll find
dovetailed guides/ways on better mortisers for a reason.
4. While not essential, a long lever arm with an L-shaped handle
is preferable to a straight handle because it applies your
force down the center of the vertical movement rather
than off to the side. The longer the arm the more mechanical
advantage - and less effort on your part - but more torque
on the up/down mechanism.
5. Having multiple handle positions rather than having a single
postion is handy so you don't have to stand on a stool to
reach the handle for some mortising
6. Having an easily set vertical stop which will work even when
you're really pulling on the lever arm can be the difference
between a good mortise and a bad one. Too deep and you
weaken the joint - or - if you're not careful, the bit hitting
the cast iron table.
Have a look at this page - and the following one for pics of much
of these things.
Check out General International's mortising machines. They have
a model with all the features of the $800 unit - except the tilting
head and rotating fence - two options I've never actually used -
but I haven't done any chairs - and have a Festool DOMINO now.
Hope this doesn't make your decision harder.
As I only have one, I can't give a comparison, but the Steel City one that I
have is a great machine...heavy enough to stay in place, but not so much
that I can't move it around myself.
First job I used it for was to cut 1/2" mortices in birch, I think they were
2 1/2" long and 2 1/2" deep...not thru. Without doing anything to the
chisels, they cut quite well on the set-up parts...I did sharpen them a
little before making the real parts, but there wasn't actually that much
difference as far as I could tell from the pull I used on the handle.
Regardless of which one you end up with keep in mind that you will need to
sharpen and polish the outer sides of the chisel right away. Doing this
will reduce your effort in cutting by at least 1/2 and there will be less
strain on the equipment.
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