Leigh FMT at the Popular Woodworking Shop

This week we enjoyed a visit from Matthew Grisley of Leigh Industries. He came in from Canada to demonstrate the company’s newest jig, the Super FMT (frame-mortise-and-tenon jig).

You remember the original FMT. To try and eliminate any mix-up between the newest FMT and the FMT the company released in the early 1990s, Leigh Industries is calling the original FMT the FMT Pro while the new version is the Super FMT.

Here’s the skinny. The Super FMT does everything the FMT Pro does at less than half the price! The Super FMT retails at $449 and the FMT Pro is sold at $929. And again, the two jigs do identical work, producing mortise-and-tenon joints and more. What’s the more? Why do you need the more?

This jig creates 70 different-size mortises and matching tenons. You can produce a mortise up to 5″ in length before you have to get creative and link a couple mortises end to end to for a longer joint. Also, you can cut two or more mortises side by side if need be. And the jig works with some 40+ different routers. (You do not have to dedicate a router to this jig. On most routers, after you run through the setup, you simply pull the guide bars from the jig and your router is ready for other action. To return it to the jig, position the router, slide the guide bars in place then tighten the screws and you’re ready to work.)

If you still need the more, how about this: Leigh Industries has a template that fits both jigs and allows you to make louvered shutters, straight tenons for those who simply use the jig to cut tenons and you can cut mortises and tenons that are set 90Ã?º to the normal method that’s shown in the photo.

OK. You know that if the company produces a jig that does the same work, and the price is way less than the original jig, something had to change , but what? For starters, Leigh changed from extruded aluminum, which was completely milled by CNC machines, to steel that is stamped and created by punch presses.

The second area you’ll see changes is in clamps. The FMT Pro has cam-action speed clamps whereas the Super FMT uses an F-style clamp with a twist. The twist is an additional piece of plastic added to the clamp that is equipped with a powerful magnet. The magnet doesn’t provide the clamping power. No, it holds the clamp in position while you slide on the balance of the clamp to lock things tight , it’s a one-hand operation.

Also on the FMT Pro, the jig-body top plate slides along ways that are cam-locked when working. The Super FMT is held firm with twin twist knobs located under the router plate and the two movable plates that are part of the jig are held with rare earth magnets. Let’s tell it like it is; the magnets do not have same holding power as the cam locks, but they do the job in setup mode and you have to tighten the two knobs prior to using the jig anyway.

One other difference is in the alignment portion of the jig. The FMT Pro has a sliding centering device that retracts away from the work area when not in use. The Super FMT has a separate tool that snaps into position to allow you to set up, then it’s removed and is easily stored attached to the jig by way of a magnet (see the photo).

If you’ve been pining for an FMT to produce rock-solid mortise-and-tenon joints, but price was a concern, you have no excuses anymore. The Super FMT is a great jig. It’s easy to set up, easy to adjust, has too many possible joint sizes and can be used for more than regular mortise and tenons.

 

 

– Glen D. Huey

 

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3 thoughts on “Leigh FMT at the Popular Woodworking Shop

  1. Rob Shively

    I once owned an FMT Pro but was less than enchanted with the cam clamps and right-angle fixture that held the workpiece to be tennoned perpendicular to the table on which the router was mounted. Both were hard to adjust and tighten adequately. I sold the jig because of that. The FMT Super seems to offer an improvement in both of those areas and I may consider buying another one.

  2. Steve

    (I have the original FMT.)

    It takes a little while to figure out, but once you "get it," it’s actually very easy to use. And the joints are so quick to make and fit so well that I’ve started using frame-and-panel construction for utility stuff, like garage cabinets. A poplar frame with a glued-in 1/4" plywood panel is more than strong enough, and much lighter than the equivalent 3/4" plywood sheet.

  3. Jeff

    As Norm would say, "Be sure to wear these, safety glasses." I know you say it is simple to use, but it looks sort of complex. That is the same router I use so that’s good.

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