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I always say that the most-used machine in my shop is a table saw. Second to that is a floor model mortiser – I learned back in 2000 how important this machine was to a guy building period furniture. (I wore out two benchtop units before I ponied up the cash for the big boy toy.)

I know that my approach to shop machinery is different than many of you reading this blog. I was aiming to be a professional, so tools and machines were my lifeblood. To me, my mortiser was worth every penny spent. While you may not feel the necessity to purchase a  floor model mortiser, you should, if you build furniture using mortise-and-tenon joinery, have a mortiser – not just a contraption that bolts on to your drill press.

Benchtop models have come a long way since my woodworking beginnings. Today, benchtop units are more robust and respected. Every woodworking school in which I’ve taught has two, three or more mortise machines, be they foot operated machines, floor models or the benchtop variety.

In the October 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, the lead tool in our “tool test” column is a very robust mortise machine from General International. The video below gives you a quick look at the machine. The article in the magazine provides more information and details. I would look seriously at this machine if I were in the market for a benchtop mortiser.

There are other ways to create mortises in woodworking. What method do you use?

— Glen D. Huey

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Showing 3 comments
  • matekin

    Thanks again to another fine review. This is the only model I had no info on until this review and this has helped me finalize my decision to purchase the Powermatic PM701 benchtop mortiser. It is just as robust with heavy duty castings, but has a 3/4hp motor vs. 1/2hp motor, a rack and pinion fence adjustment w/locking hold downs and a simple one piece door to give you easy access to the drill chuck. There are also other nice features as well.

    The less expensive mortisers just don’t have the heavy duty build of both this model and the Powermatic. I looked at them all.

  • Mitch Wilson

    How does this compare to the floor model Powermatic that Bob has at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking? For example, the floor model has the sliding work table, which is convenient but may not be necessary. And you definitely were down on the drill press attachments, one of which I have (for my General Int. floor model).

  • tsstahl

    I’ve done the loose tenon thing, then moved on to the drill bit and chisel. Last year I picked up a couple vintage mortise chisels from Patrick Leach(sp?), but have only had time to play with them.

    I’ve been eyeing the powermatic benchtop mortiser, but freely admit that I have no idea how to judge good from bad in mortise machines.

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