Don't discount the rotation of a mortise chisel...

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D_W

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Talking further upon the recent thread about bench chisels being just as good (or often claimed to be better for mortises), I've cut 16 mortises in door stiles the last couple of weeks. If it weren't for actually making all of the doors and fitting miters, I would've just cut them all in one day (because it's fun).

I'm testing a modified sharpening method (shallower angle, but buffer at the edge of the chisel, so I wanted to try it on a bench chisel and cut 12 of the mortises with a bench chisel (not interested in making a tall cross section mortise chisel have a really long thin primary bevel). The bench chisel held up well, and it's a low quality chisel, so the sharpening method works well, but..

...I cut the mortises for the last door yesterday (1/4" wide, 1 3/4" long and 1 1/2 inches or so deep) with an unusual socket mortise chisel, and the time spent on those was 3 minutes per (thanks to the magic of stopwatches on cell phones, I could figure that out easily). I didn't time the bench chisel mortises, but I fought with them and had to go to greater length to get chips out, they were probably closer to 5 minutes, but much less controlled.

With a mortise chisel, if you ride the bevel into the cut, the chisel cross section makes it so that at the bottom of the cut, you push the chisel forward, and the chip and some other stuff anywhere near it is cleaned from the bottom of the cut and you can just flip it out of the mortise.

The sellers video that everyone refers to shows this, but it's an easy thing to do when wood is attached only on one side. In cherry with a bench chisel (and a mortise attached at both sides), it doesn't happen so well.

With the mortise chisel, the mortise is cut faster (see the picture - the chisel in the back here is the one I'm talking about - these mortises are a bit small for a giant pigsticker, though they're long enough), the alignment is better and the chip clearing is far better - you can just hammer until you're done and then turn over whatever is being mortised when done.

https://i.imgur.com/4OW6iax.jpg

What's the point? If you're relatively new, don't rely on gimmick internet videos to make decisions. If bench chisels were better for cutting mortises, nobody would've been able to sell mortise chisels when there was little spare cash. you can test this kind of thing on your own relatively cheaply (just buy a used chisel like I've got here. The dealer for this chisel did make me pay a princely sum - something like $19, but it's a nice size for cabinet mortises in the size that I use a lot (1/4")

There is a type that also works better than anything made now, but you won't easily find them - I believe they're an artifact of hand making of tools - mortise chisels that taper slightly along their length. Not only do they have a tall cross section, but the bits of the chisel up from the edge don't get stuck in the cut easily, and the tool rotates and cuts more easily. The slight taper makes no real difference in cutting the mortise (in terms of accuracy). Why suspect it's an artifact of hand making? If you're forging a chisel by hand and have two targets to aim at - perfectly parallel or slightly biased to taper in width, the latter is far easier to make without causing a toxic problem (a chisel with spots wider than the cutting edge is toxic in a mortise, even if the error in making is small - I had a japanese chisel that wasn't quite right - it was like that, and it would stick so hard in normal mortise cutting that it broke).
 

MikeG.

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All fair points.....but missing the context of the last discussion, which was about shallow 1/4" wide mortises. A mortise chisel will give no advantage in those circumstances, but will give many advantages in the situation you just described. Further, you can do mortises with a bench chisel, but you can't do paring, or chopping tenons, or dovetailing, or hogging out for a housing joint or 101 other regular jobs ...with a mortise chisel. Therefore, the mortise chisel is a specialist tool, good at one job only.......and if you don't have the generalist tool, the bench chisel, then you buy those before you buy a mortise chisel.
 

D_W

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This is in a broader context than just the last discussion - I don't think people need to buy sets of mortise chisels (which many often do), but having one or two is useful, especially if you do something often. For example, I've cut around 125 mortises in face frames and doors in the last several years, even though I feel like I don't really build furniture or cabinets. All of those have been 1/4th inch.

I have a set of pigstickers (IH sorby) that I found reasonable, but the reason for getting the set is different (if you find them for a reasonable price - they're really easy to sell when you decide you want to because good matched sets are uncommon).

you are correct, mortising chisels aren't particularly great for much else. I couldn't manage to think of a single time I've used one for something other than mortises. And I've had some expensive ones that I didn't think were too favorable - especially dead square sash mortisers in mortises deeper than an inch. sticky.

Having one chisel that rotates in the bottom of a mortise in real wood (not behind glass) makes for a stark difference, though. The chips and the bottom are clean and come out more neatly, and the desire of the chisel in terms of rotating is less by a factor of 20 (you can just whack it once the start is established).
 

dannyr

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Assuming picture has loaded OK here's a well-known shot of the Marples wood plane workshop.

These craftsmen were generally paid piecework, some specialist tools (reverse planes etc) were owned by the employer, but those such as chisels, floats etc would be their own kit.

I shan't comment except to say interesting how many tools in each man's chisel rack.
 

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Bm101

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But is comparing those guys specialism and dedicated experience to the average modern user (hobby or professional) enlightening Danny?
Genuine question! I know you are far more knowledgable than me. But it strikes me those were possibly the most streamlined and efficient hand tool workers the world will possibly ever see. Centuries of professional hand tool use/apprenticeships/guilds/ etc etc etc leading up to the that specific point in history being the apex as mechanisation and material production began to take over seriously. The end result being what? Ikea furniture. Cheap, affordable, temporary. Ok. Arguably cr*p but there you go.
Not being facetious. I'm certain those guys benefitted but would that many chisels benefit the average modern (even a high end maker) user?
Genuine question, I'm happy to learn and it's a fascinating time in history. How much would being around at the beginning of the onset of widespread electricity f*ck with your mind. And we moan about the rate of change now. Ours are countless minor evolutions at breakneck speed , a blur. But imagine going from a country of horse powered technology. the farrow and the plough, to a country powered by electricity in one lifetime. It must have been bewildering. *he types on the internet* :D
 

D_W

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dannyr":38mpqc5j said:
Assuming picture has loaded OK here's a well-known shot of the Marples wood plane workshop.

These craftsmen were generally paid piecework, some specialist tools (reverse planes etc) were owned by the employer, but those such as chisels, floats etc would be their own kit.

I shan't comment except to say interesting how many tools in each man's chisel rack.
I make a lot of planes - I will admit that each one, I try to find something a little bit lazier (faster, but good results). Their output rate is at least 3 times mine - it's boggling.

I'd love to have the opportunity but will admit that I'd become board and quit after I mastered it. My make rate for a jack plane as fine as you can get is still a long day. If they didn't have the benefit of machinery to do the rough work, I'd bet they could still do 3.
 

D_W

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Bm101":3u7wzmdx said:
But is comparing those guys specialism and dedicated experience to the average modern user (hobby or professional) enlightening Danny?
Genuine question! I know you are far more knowledgable than me. But it strikes me those were possibly the most streamlined and efficient hand tool workers the world will possibly ever see. Centuries of professional hand tool use/apprenticeships/guilds/ etc etc etc leading up to the that specific point in history being the apex as mechanisation and material production began to take over seriously. The end result being what? Ikea furniture. Cheap, affordable, temporary. Ok. Arguably cr*p but there you go.
Not being facetious. I'm certain those guys benefitted but would that many chisels benefit the average modern (even a high end maker) user?
Genuine question, I'm happy to learn and it's a fascinating time in history. How much would being around at the beginning of the onset of widespread electricity f*ck with your mind. And we moan about the rate of change now. Ours are countless minor evolutions at breakneck speed , a blur. But imagine going from a country of horse powered technology. the farrow and the plough, to a country powered by electricity in one lifetime. It must have been bewildering. *he types on the internet* :D
I'm proposing something that may cost a person who cuts only joints by hand about $2-$20 (at least, I'm guessing that's what a narex mortiser would cost there - to the extent they may not be the ward of their day right now, a slightly steeper initial bevel will keep them safe).

This isn't in the vein of half back saws, 150 carving tools, etc, and I also cannot make the argument that a good M&T jig with a router isn't faster. But, if you want to cut the joints by hand, this is easier.

I also understand the direction paul is going - which is, hey - work the wood - you don't have to buy everything in the world to start making things.

Some of it is a bit far off of priority, though (For example, the 2x4 router plane - at the time when routers weren't sky high, that's a serious struggle to use with any proficiency and better set aside. cutting rabbets with a chisel, etc - the cost of timber is beyond getting decent tools for those things - router, moving fillister, etc - and those tools are a joy to use and will improve your results). But I agree with the sentiment - start working wood, use what you have - determine that it can't be used yourself rather than listening to gurus like Chris Schwarz getting into period minutiae, selling expensive cast hold fasts, or pushing you toward people who he considers friends after meeting them through business relationships.
 

Trevanion

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What happened to the last discussion?

Also, mortices? by hand? Pfft... Get with the times grandad!

[youtube]AqYAbrKCiPA[/youtube]
 

D_W

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Trevanion":rlqbm9t1 said:
What happened to the last discussion?

Also, mortices? by hand? Pfft... Get with the times grandad!

[youtube]AqYAbrKCiPA[/youtube]
Exactly (someone probably requested the last discussion be removed because it went around in circles like a record). My original post had nothing to do with it except that seeing that glass mortise video from sellers reminded me that the conclusion drawn from it vs. a properly sided mortise in wood attached on both sides is different - and I just inadvertently compared the two again recently.

But, man with arts and crafts furniture with through mortises and desire to make a bunch is well served to some kind of power mortising. I think I could get 3 minute mortises to two, but i couldn't match a power mortising machine no matter what. I've seen a multirouter in person well set up cutting repetitive mortises and they come off square and vapor tight - if anything, it's too accurate (you have to make an allowance for glue or you cannot put glue on and get the joint together).
 

dannyr

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Bm101":12mx0bjy said:
But is comparing those guys specialism and dedicated experience to the average modern user (hobby or professional) enlightening Danny?
Genuine question! I know you are far more knowledgable than me. But it strikes me those were possibly the most streamlined and efficient hand tool workers the world will possibly ever see. Centuries of professional hand tool use/apprenticeships/guilds/ etc etc etc leading up to the that specific point in history being the apex as mechanisation and material production began to take over seriously. The end result being what? Ikea furniture. Cheap, affordable, temporary. Ok. Arguably cr*p but there you go.
Not being facetious. I'm certain those guys benefitted but would that many chisels benefit the average modern (even a high end maker) user?
Genuine question, I'm happy to learn and it's a fascinating time in history. How much would being around at the beginning of the onset of widespread electricity f*ck with your mind. And we moan about the rate of change now. Ours are countless minor evolutions at breakneck speed , a blur. But imagine going from a country of horse powered technology. the farrow and the plough, to a country powered by electricity in one lifetime. It must have been bewildering. *he types on the internet* :D


And for contrast, still very skilledvcraftsmen.

For a short while in 1969-71, I lived in Newfoundland Canada.

I 'helped' (certainly more like hindered) a house/cabin building crew of two. Once the basement was finished (poured concrete or mortared boulders) they built the rest of the house of planks and beams from the local mill -- they had the lightest of tool bags - a wickedly sharp adze, a claw hammer and a good hand-saw (one of the two had one chisel - so that's only half a chisel each) the adzes were used constantly for close fitting, the chisel occasionally, sharpening was done on a rock (they knew which worked), most sawing to length was done after the plank was nailed in place so little need for a bench/horse . Simplest of houses and finish joined by others, but they were so effective and quick.
 

AJB Temple

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There is no way I could mark out and cut an accurate mortice hole in 3 minutes unless I could benefit from repetitive (in effect templated) marking out, and the mortices were small. It is unusual for me to cut small mortices at all these days as I only do fine work when I make a rare foray back into musical instruments (which don't have much call for M&T joints!). The domino machine is just so quick.

I am presently making frames for built in cupboards. Mark out is dead simple (a registration line across the joint) and I can cut 16 domino slots in about 2 minutes then. So for work where the glue joint will be hidden, this is what I do now.

For fine work, speed is not of the essence though. For chopping out big mortices in oak framing sized timber, a mortice chisel is pretty much the only hand tool that will take the punishment of being belted with a three pound hammer, especially in the corners.
 
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