Mats Bengtsson Home Improvement and Do It Yourself

Possible tools to use to create mortise joinery on small frames

Mats Bengtsson mib over the years

Possible tools to use to create mortise joinery on small frames

A long flat narrow frame lying on the Leigh D4R jigIf you have a couple of long flat narrow boards, with square angles, you have the chance to connect them with good looking mortise and tenon joinery. To do that you need to get the joints into the right places with good precision. There are a number of ways to make that happen.

The most difficult thing is actually to cut the mortise joint when they are to be on the flat side and 90 degrees to the long edge, as on the picture. There is a number of possible ways to do it, all with their specific advantages and disadvantages. Some of them are listed below:

  • The mortise can be cut on the table saw. Cut is quick, centering is easy (turn the piece around). A very good way if the cut can be allowed to be a bit rough, is to be fairly narrow, and long. Does not work well on small frames as above, since the cutting blade is better at making long mortises
  • The mortise can be cut free hand using cutting tools. This is left for the enthusiast. There are experts that can do this quickly and nicely, but most can not, not even the enthusiasts.
  • The mortise can be cut free hand using the router and a straight edge. Even with extremely careful measurements, the chance of repeatedly placing a set of mortises with the same measurements using that technique is low.
  • The mortise can be cut on the router table.cms

    Doing that is slower than on the table saw when doing narrow mortises (small router bit diameter). If the cut parallel to the long edge, then It is easy to center the mortise, but care must be taken for safety when turning the routed bit around. Unlike the table saw, the router table also works acceptably on short mortises square to the long edge as the one on the picture. When the frame is say 45 millimeter narrow, and the mortise length thus is to be around 35 millimeter, both the "drop the piece onto the router" method as well as the "move a narrow piece along the router fence" method leads to hesitation and risks. It can be used though, and with a good setup, it works well.

  • The mortise can be cut using a router and a template. As soon as I think template and router, I think Festool MFS. MFS is very suitable for any kind of mortise, also on a narrow frame. When the frame is thinner than the MFS is wide, a number of addtional setup worries come around, so I do not consider it the best way for the mortise in the top picture.
  • The mortise can be cut with the Domino machine. The Festool Domino is simply fantastic and is suitable for a lot of things, also here. Doing it with the Domino and a floating tenon is probably the fastest and easiest way. It very often is. But when the thickness of the boards do not fit the Domino cutting depth, or the Domino floating tenons, then the Domino loses its edge.
  • The mortise can be cut with the slot driller machine. The slot driller is specially made for making long slots, like mortises. This is like the Domino a very quick way of doing the mortise with high precision, but requires a jig for mounting the board, specially if we talk about a frame which should have the mortise in the flat side as on the pictures. Unlike the Domino, the slot driller can handle mortises of more or less any length and width and depth.
  • The mortise can be cut with the Leigh D4R system, especially if the multiple mortise and tenon joint template is available. I have had that template for a long time. Had I not bought the Domino, then I would have used the Leigh jig more. However, the M2 mortise and tenon template has a number fo drawbacks, and I hesitate to use it as it is intended. But for this kind of mortise, it is very suitable.



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