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Cutting the Mortise - part two



Cutting the Mortise - part two

 Once the joint is laid out, there are many options to actually cutting the joint. For forming a mortise, the most basic method would be wood chisels and a mallet. There are wood chisels designed specifically for cutting mortises. They are much heavier than standard cabinet chisels due to the amount of force they are subjected to. It is very hard on the tool edge, if using a standard chisel, and often the result is a broken chisel.


When using a chisel, start cutting shy of the layout lines. It is very easy to pare to the line, once most of the joint is cut. This is pretty much standard with any joint cut with a chisel. The results will be a much crisper joint.

Drive the mortise chisel straight down into the work piece, holding the chisel at ninety degrees to the board. Out line the joint in this fashion, staying inside the scribed lines. Then after this is complete, start near the end of the joint, and holding the chisel with the bevel down, and the handle on an angle to the work, start cleaning out the out lined area. Work your way across the joint. After completing this, return the driving the chisel straight down, again following the perimeter of the joint. Continue going back and forth between these two cutting metods, until the desired depth is reached. Now, with a paring chisel clean up the sides of the mortise to meet the layout lines.


Mortise Chisels

Notice in the lower right hand corner of the drawer. These are Japanese made mortise chisels, and while it's difficult to tell from the picture, they are more than double the thickness of the other chisels in this drawer. They can easily handle the force required to produce a mortise. Also notice the upper left hand corner. The broken chisel is the result of some nut trying to use it to cut a mortise. (not this nut, some other nut).

Tools for Cutting mortise and tenon joints

The odd shaped mallets in the picture are Japanese chisel hammers of varying weights. They are designed to hit hooped chisels. Hooped refers to the metal ring at the end on the wood handle. Never hit a chisel with a hammer that is not equipped with the hoop. The result will be a split handle.


Cutting the Mortise - part three

Return to Mortise and Tenon Index

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