That's a Micro-Mortise - Popular Woodworking Magazine

That's a Micro-Mortise

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Schwarz on Workbenches, Woodworking Blogs

You know that you’ve been building a Roubo workbench when you chop a 1-1/4″ wide, 4″-long and 3″-deep blind mortise and it’s comically easy.

Today I’m getting back into the swing of things on this Roubo workbench. My goal is to have the stretchers dry-fit into the legs by the end of the week. There are several things that could get in my way.

1. I have to do my taxes tomorrow. Yikes.

2. My day job. I’m exactly 37 e-mails (dang, now 38) behind, and I still need to write a feature story for the August 2010 issue.

3. It’s so nice outside that I might just strip buck naked and air out all my crevasses. It has been a long and malodorous winter.

Stay tuned to this blog or, in the case of No. 3, your local police band radio.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 11 comments
  • Milford Brown

    Re photo above: Chris, are you really beating on your Japanese mortising chisel with that wooden mallet? Japanese woodworkers use steel hammers, thus there is no energy-loss by compressing the wood of the mallet head. I particularly like the ones with the short and fat head, which concentrates the weight near the centerline of the handle – "the best balance for chiseling," according to the Hida Tool website. Most Japanese hammers have one end of the head slightly curved, but according to Toshio Odate ("Japanese Woodworking Tools"), the flat end is the one that should strike a chisel. With the ring at the top of the chisel handle properly seated a bit below the end, as yours is, the hammer head will only strike the wood of the chisel handle.

  • Jared Wayne

    argh… mortises without powertools! that’s some diesel work!

    love the blog… look to it everyday for inspiration!


  • Christopher Schwarz

    Ah, the stretchers have a job to do. More details on that in the weeks to come.

  • Eric R

    It was really cool hanging with you at Jeff Millers last week.
    I loved the "Shooting Board from a Bench Dog trick"
    And adjusting the height of the dovetail board in the vice via laying the other member on top of the plane and squaring them up with the back side of a chisel.

    Plus, my new books and attire were a nice acquisition.

    Thanks Chris.

  • Michael Brady

    Why was I thinking this bench would go stretcherless? It would seem that those massive tenons would get the job done, unless you are thinking that the extra weight of more frame members would be needed.

  • Bill Melidones

    I’m curious about how you broke the Ray Iles?

    Malodorous? Couldn’t you just say smelly?

  • Christopher Schwarz

    That’s an Iyoroi Japanese mortise chisel I bought more than 12 years ago from Highland Hardware. I gave it to Megan and borrowed it back to finish the base.

    They still carry it:

    I need to make a new handle for my 1/2" Ray Iles.


  • Take Alberts

    Chisel looks Japanese to me. Ray Iles no longer cutting it for you? Or is this someting we’ll see a review of in the future?

    I suppose you have to balance the physical airing with the mental airing of crevasses you’re doing here on the blog. On the other hand, given the choice, which would you prefer: No. 1 or No.3?


  • AAAndrew

    Ah, Spring!

    The sap is rising and a young man’s fancy turns to streaking. Or something like that.

    I remember when I chopped a mortise like that in my hard maple top, the chips where flying like bullets at Normandy.

    ‘Course, my mortise wasn’t quite that purty. But I’ll forgive you for that since it’s spring!


  • John Zahurak

    Was wondering what mortise chisel you are using there? Thanks – John

  • Dave Beauchesne


    Thanks for the warning, but, seriously, a little too much information!

    Dave Beauchesne

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