I am a woodworking newbie. I have a small drill press, small router
table, etc. This weekend I was playing around trying to meake mortise
and tennon joints. I made good tennone with my router table and
straight bit. But the mortise was not so good with the router table. Is
this the best way to make them or am I missing something?
Also I have read a little about mortising chisels and bits. Can I use
these directly in my drill press without the need for an adaptor?
(Money is an issue here).
A fostnre bit would not be good because it would leave the hole round,
For the mortise, with the tools you've mentioned, you could either
route the mortise or use a forstner bit in the drill press, then chisel
the hole square. Of the two, I'd recommend the router for a newbie.
You could either use the router in a table by dropping the workpiece on
the running bit, or use it freehand with the workpiece clamped to the
table and a straight edge on the router. Use a straight-cutting bit or
a spiral up-cut bit. Route the mortises in several passes, don't go
for the whole depth in one shot. Route the mortises first, then cut
the tennons. Sneak up on the tennon thickness. Use a knife or chisel
to round off the corners of the tennon as that's much easier than
squaring the mortises.
I started out with a mortising attachment on a bench top drill press.
It's a bit of a pain to setup up and adjust, but it makes passable
mortises. If I could do it again though, I'd probably make a jig for
the router and route the mortises.
This is where a little effort learning to sharpen and use hand tools can
pay huge dividends.
A sharp shoulder plane during dry fit can quickly, and relatively
easily, make every tenon fit perfectly in a lot less time than trying to
get them perfect right off a power tool.
Most find a plunge router and a jig more helpful than a table when doing
mortises with a router. Search some of the woodworking magazines sites for
examples of jigs that make this relatively easy with a plunge router.
There is a picture of a more complicated one on my website, Fixtures and
Any drill bit will work to remove most of the material in the mortise area.
Then use a chisel to square up the mortise sides.
That's why I gave you multiple options.
Reading your repetitive questions, and how you profess to have few tools and
little knowledge of how to use those, perhaps the best thing for your
mortise and tenon quandary is "beadlock joinery".
You should be able to handle that, and the price to get started in less than
No, it's not hard to clean up with a chisel, but it definitely takes
practice. Skew chisels are good for cleaning up, but regular ones work
too, with practice.
Depends - good ones are. Look at Lee Valley - their house brand are
fairly reasonably priced, and they have some nicer and some cheaper
ones too - look at the Narex brand Bevel-edge chisels for a very
reasonably priced basic chisel set. For comparison, a nice set of
Japanese chisels runs several hundred dollars.
Again, depends - good ones are. Look at Lee Valley - their house brand
are good quality and not too expensive. I started with Harbor Freight
forstner bits, and they're surprisingly functional given the extremely
The whole point of forstner bits is they drill flat-bottomed holes, and
they cut on the rim instead of the middle of the hole, so you can do
overlapping holes on your drill press without the bit deflecting as a
standard bit would.
Sounds like you have a lot of reading to do to get through the basics.
You'll save time and frusteration if you start with simpler projects
and study more before you start a project, or before you ask really
basic questions here.
When I had the exact same set of equipment, my preference was to set up
a fence on the DP table, line-drill with a Forstner bit and clean up
the sides of the mortise with a wide chisel. Safer, quieter, and easier
to see what you're doing, as compared to plunge-cutting on a router
Depends on whether you can find the exact collar size to match your
drill press. Some mortising attachments come with several bushings. I
haven't used one, but if money is your main factor and you really want
a mortising attachment, you might check out Grizzly.
http://www.grizzly.com/catalog/2006/main/105 (see bottom of page).
I'd agree with the previous post that the easiest/cheapest mortise
method with the tools you have now is the drill press with a series of
forstner bit holes, cleaned up with a chisel.
I have never used a chisel. Is it hard to "clean up" with a chisel? Are
I dont have a fostnre bit either. Are they expensive? Since they drill
round holes, why not just use a drill bit?
As with any tool - expensive is relative and dependent on quality. You can
get very inexpensive chisels and forstner bits OR you can spend a lot of $$.
Forstner bits leave a relatively flat bottom as compared to regular bits -
easier to control the depth.
Most will also cut a nicer hole in wood than any twist drill. For a
decent amount of woodworking, bits designed to drill wood are typically
very worthwhile to have. Twist drills really aren't all that useful for
If the flatness of the bottom isn't all that important, good brad-point
bits are often cheaper than forstner style.
Here are some nice descriptions of each:
Brad point drilled holes are probably flat enough for mortising, as not
much of the joint's strength comes from the end grain of the tenon.
I'll do a mortise with a router table occasionally. The best tip I can
think of is, Use a TALL fence. Make sure it is square to the table.
Build a sled jig if necessary to limit the travel of the material.
The sled is simple to build with 1/4" plywood and scrap blocks. Make
the top fit your material with blocks placed to keep it still, and put
blocks on the bottom of the sled to limit the travel by hitting the
edges router table. Run the sled against the fence and keep it tight to
the table surface. Someone else suggested making several passes,
removing a little material at a time. I agree 100%.
Tom in KY, building Normie looking jigs for nearly every project.
I have been reading your questions here and it has become apparent to me
that you are in over your head. I suggest scaling back your project and
choose something that will build your skills without costing so much in wood
and not be such an important piece of furniture.
my recommendation is to start with small items that practice specific
skills, like mortise and tenons, dados, cutting panels, and even accurate
stock preparation. I truly believe that you will be disappointed with the
results of the bed if you continue without the skills necessary to make a
I have done some small projects before. It is just I need a bed pretty
quickly. I can cut a good tennon. And the mortise fit the tennon but
was not perfectly straight. The wood I have is free but needs tobe
Frank Drackman wrote:
So what if it's a big project and you don't have a ton of experience?
There's no better way to learn than to just do it. Sure, you may want
to build yourself a new bed in a couple of years after you've learned a
few tricks and gotten a lot better at this stuff; you'll probably look
back at your first big project and cringe at all the mistakes you made.
So what? It will be a valuable learning experience, and chances are
it'll come out just fine. You'll be the only one to notice all the
For what it's worth, in my opinion you should take the forstner bit
route. It's really easy, really controllable, and you can do a half
dozen mortises that way in the time it takes to set up your router.
You can buy a 3/8" or 1/2" bit at HD or Lowes for under $10. You just
have to mark the perimeter of the mortise, set the depth on your drill
press, and start drilling. The beauty of forstner bits is that the
center of the bit doesn't have to contact any wood. When I do mortises
this way, I drill slightly overlapping holes all the way around the
perimeter, then come back and nibble away the leftovers with the bit.
The remaining chisel work is very easy. You're only left with a tiny
amount to remove. The result is a mortise with round corners the same
radius as your drill bit. You can either continue the chisel work and
square up the corners (it's not really that difficult), or you can use
a knife or a plane or a chisel or router or whatever you want to round
the corners of your tenons. It's not that big a deal if you remove too
much material on the corners of the tenons. It'll never show and
you're not really sacrificing much glue surface.
Like the forstner bit, you should be able to get a chisel at the borg
(e.g. 1/2" wide) that will be just fine for what you want to do for
under $10. Or if you're like most woodworkers, you can use this bed as
an excuse to get yourself a set of forstner bits and a set of chisels.
Agreed. As a newb myself, the only way I learn something new is to
work out the learning process. Scraps make a great test bed. My
current project involves mortise and tennons in 3/4" quarter sawn
white oak and I plan on learning the forstner bit and 3/8" registered
chisel to square the hole of mortises. I intentionally cut off extra
milled stock for this reason.
I intentionally look for one new skill to learn with each new project
and try to become better at the ones I learned in the prior ones.
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Other will suggest methods - there are a million
ways to skin a cat.
But DO make sure you mark your reference face,
reference edge and reference end when you do
your layout AND mark your parts (the Triangle
Method works pretty well) so they'll go together
properly come assembly time. Parts with the
same dimensions may not be interchangeable.
Since joints are seldom perfectly symetrical,
getting a part flipped end or end or 180 degrees
off on its long axis can raise all kinds of hell
come glue up time. DAMHIKT.
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