Best Mortisers: Buying Guide
There are several methods and a variety of tools to produce a mortise. Although each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, producing top-quality mortises that fit and look professionally done can only be made by dedicated mortising machines.
There are several benefits that come from owning your own bench-top mortise unit. Unlike routers and chisels, mortising machines force out the debris and square cuts in one seamless action, producing ends that fit tenons perfectly. If mortises are a significant part of your woodworking task, then speed, quality and efficiency should be your main concern.
So what exactly is the best mortising machine out there? Well, this is what we’re here to find out. There are bench-top and floor standing models, so depending on the size of your workshop and how much space you’re willing to dedicate to a bulky mortiser, you’ll want to make sure you get one that works best but saves space. Here are our picks for the top mortising machines you can get today.
OUR PICKPowermatic 1791310 PM701 3/4 Horsepower Bench Mortiser Review
The Powermatic PM701 bench-top mortiser is an excellent machine based on several criteria. Basically, this is the overall best pick for many professional workers who are looking for a balance in power, high-end features, and a reasonable price tag, all in one quality performance tool.
One of the most prominent features of this mortising machine is its power. Although it’s far from being the most powerful tool out there, considering its size and shape it does pack a lot of power. It comes with a ¾-horsepower motor that can spin up to 1,725 RPM. It has a 4 3/8-inch chisel center to fence distance and a chisel capacity of up to ¾ inches. This Powermatic tool can really handle a wide range of tasks. The in-depth stop adds precision to drilling and can be configured to preset drilling depths.
Another excellent feature is the double-lock system which ensures that the stock is kept in place while it runs. One lock positions the stock from the side while the second lock clamps down from the top. It also comes with a reversible handle which can move from side to side without the help of external tools. The handle is sturdy, allowing users a firm grip for precision cuts.
However, the handle can be uncomfortable to use at certain depth settings. Some users have reported the handle bottoming out before reaching the desired chisel depth. You can solve this problem by beginning from a less than comfortable starting position. In addition, this unit is quite heavy for its size (93 lbs). However, the weight is an advantage since it provides extra sturdiness.
Professional woodworkers understand the importance of getting comfortable with using certain tools. They also understand the power is a significant factor when purchasing a mortising machine. The Jet JBM-5 Bench Mortiser is a great choice with a ½-horsepower motor which clocks at 1,752 RPM.
Although the Jet JBM-5’s motor isn’t as powerful as the previous model’s, it still offers solid performance on most stocks. This features a ½-inch maximum chisel width and a ¾-inch head stroke. From these specs, it’s clear that this JET-made mortising machine is designed to perform a wide range of tasks.
The feed handle can easily be adjusted to allow the user the most comfortable starting position for each drilling application. There is also depth stops for additional accuracy when mortising all types of woods. Additionally, the drill bits are easy to change; you just need to flip the steel door on both sides to access the chuck.
Despite the lightweight (44 lbs) build of the unit, strength and durability are practically guaranteed from its cast-iron and steel construction. It rests on a cast-iron base that can be drilled onto workbenches for additional stability.
However, the ½-horsepower motor, being so under-powered, means that working with the thick stock can be an issue. This unit is obviously built for DIY hobbyists, and professionals would need a secondary, more heavy-duty mortising machine to get through more challenging tasks. The fence is also a little bit too low, so some drilling tasks will be more complicated to do than they need to be.
The Shop Fox W1671 3/4 is marketed as a bench-top mortising king. The company boasts its ruggedness and various features that make it the top-tier mortising machine for every user. The strong and sturdy fence keeps wooden slabs from moving unnecessarily and prevents chisels from getting stuck in the wood. Shop Fox has incorporated a one-of-a-kind swivel base for off-bench use. The extra height and drill depth let users work with large stock.
The ¾-horsepower motor of the W1671 by Shop Fox is perfect for working with all types of wood. The motor is powerful enough to perform a wide range of tasks, and operation is helped by the gas spring return system and dual-support columns. The depth stops are constructed with steel and are easy to configure, so accurate cuts are easier to do.
This model by Shop Fox comes with a 22-inch handle for quick positioning and offers additional leverage for working with thicker pieces of material. The adjustable micro-fence is excellent at clamping down onto the materials, preventing unwanted movement and jolts. Although it’s not quite as good as the Powermatic’s double-lock system, it still performs reasonably well.
However, despite the claims of being a “mortising king”, there are some important things to note about this machine. First, although it’s a heavy-duty machine and weights 94 lbs, performing more meticulous detailing tasks can be a challenge and frustrating to deal with. In addition, the instruction manual for putting this piece together is confusing, and several customers reported missing pieces and waited for ages to receive them from the manufacturer.
The RIKON Power Tools 34-260 is another great mortising machine with a number of high-quality features. The gas stabilizer assists in controlling the upward- and downward-motions of the chisel as you work. There’s sufficient workspace on the table (and table extension). The unique design of this model offers great control over the positioning of your mortises. The X-Y coordinates on the table also allow for precision work.
RIKON Power Tools didn’t go all-out with this product, instead opting for a moderate ½-horsepower engine with a maximum speed capacity of up to 1,700 RPM. Although it’s not in the same league as the Powermatic or Shop Fox models, it does an exceptional job at most mortising tasks. The dovetail column ways with adjustable stops offer consistency when engraving multiple mortises.
The chisel shank is 1-inch in diameter with 5/8- and ¾-inch brushings. The maximum depth under the chisel is 5 inches. The 34-260 also offers a ½-inch chuck capacity and a maximum clamp width of 3 7/8 inches. The fence support measures at a generous 13 ¾ inches long by 2 5/8 inches tall. The material used to build the fence is durable enough to last you several years.
However, some users have complained about the less-than-understandable English used to convey the assembling instructions of the unit, so you’ll need the guidance of a How-to video on the internet to help with building. In addition, the chisels that come with the 34-260 kit have been known to need a pre-sharpening before being fitted into the chuck and used to cut mortises. Despite the negatives, this is an extremely satisfying tool to work with and its features offer convenience and top-notch performance.
Best Mortisers: Conclusion
And there you have it: these are the best mortising machines out there on the market today. The four companies mentioned in this article are among the best manufacturers and distributors of high-quality mortising machines for both hobbyists working out of their garage and craftsmen working in a professional workshop.
Although each of these machines has its cons, their features and easy-to-use controls make them all worthy choices for your next mortising needs. If you need a mortising machine that can run for several years and perform several small-scale tasks, any of these machines will suit your needs.