by Robert W. Lang
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The hollow-chisel mortiser is one of my favorite woodworking machines. I can take a few steps from my bench, set the fence and depth of cut without any fuss and in a matter of minutes create half of one of the best and most-often used joints in woodworking.
In the past several years, benchtop mortisers have become widely available, but these low-priced machines lack what makes a good mortiser efficient. At the other end of the spectrum, top-of-the-line machines have features that drive up the price with little or no added benefit.
The machine in our shop is a bare-bones floor model that isn’t made anymore. If you can find a used one similar to it, get it. If you’re on a budget or unsure how one of these machines will fit in your shop, most of the benchtop machines available have the power and capacity to make mortises in most projects likely to cross your bench.
The advantage most floor-model machines have is a sliding table that clamps the work tight to the fence and repositions the work with a slight turn of the wrist. Today’s upper-end machines have a similar table, but the table or the head of the machine also tilts.
From the November 2013 issue, #207