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Leigh FMT Review.

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Aragorn

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There’s not much on this forum about the Leigh FMT Frame Mortice and Tenon Jig, so I thought I’d write a little review…
Presumably part of the reason for lack of chat about it is its price. £650 from Rutlands. I went the Lee Valley route and saved over £120 including delivery and duty.
It’s a lot of money to knock out basic joinery, especially when anyone with a tablesaw and drill press can make this joint very well. (Woah there ratters! Easy now! :p )
For me, I’m a stickler for precision and after A) spending too much time sanding back the joints on my mortices and tenons, no matter how much care I took on the set up :oops: ; B) I have been commissioned a job with near 100 M&Ts :shock: , and C) I have a project coming up with compound angled M&Ts, which I didn’t much fancy doing on the tablesaw, I decided to take the plunge and buy the jig.
I’m not going to bore you with how the jig works and that kind of thing - if you don’t know, have a look at their site: http://www.leighjigs.com/fmt.php. Nope, I’ll bore you with this lot instead:
Anyone who knows Leigh products will know that this is a bit of kit that’s going to last forever, and will always be able to turn out perfect joints.
The reviews I’d read before purchase had all been favourable, and I was expecting to take the machine out the box and rout a perfect M&T on my first test piece. In fact, this wasn’t the case… After unpacking and familiarising myself with everything, working carefully through the immaculate instructions I turned out a joint that was a little baggy, and not perfectly aligned. Fortunately on the Leigh, everything is adjustable. Wherever the instructions said, “This has been factory set and is unlikely to need adjustment”, I needed to adjust it! I don’t mind - it didn’t take long and I feel I know the jig better for having set it up from scratch. The resulting M&T in oak off-cuts was perfect. Such a crisp edge to the tenon shoulders, exactly 90° in every plane, and such a smooth finish to both mortice and tenon that it will form the strongest joint when glued.
It has its limitations - or so I thought! The deepest tenon piece (front to back) that can be cut with a single tenon is 34mm. I’m always knocking out doors of 40mm depth and upwards, so I thought I’d be spending twice as long at the jig making “twin” tenons. In fact, the procedure for routing twin M&Ts is exceptionally quick, easy and convenient. Instead of being a slight burden, I will now be making twin and double M&Ts where before I’d make single ones, resulting in much greater glue surface area and generally stronger joinery.
In use, the jig is a luxury to use. The main body is surprisingly solid and robust. The router attaches to a large sub-base and it can be removed and replaced in under a minute. The sub-base has two “pins” under it that ride in slots to guide the cut and produce the tenon or mortice. The action for this is very smooth and it almost feels like you’re not cutting anything at all! With very little effort you’ve made a tenon.
The main limitation for any router-based jig is the depth of cut of the router, so I thought making through-tenons on larger pieces could be a no-no. Leigh have thought of everything, and the instructions guide you like an silly person through every step. Through-joints are simply routed from both sides, and the accuracy of the jig enables a perfect result.
I’m not going to say a bad word about the instructions. Not exactly. More a reassuring word really: you get a book of instructions. Every eventuality is covered! When it can take an hour to unpack and set up the jig, understand how to make a joint, it begins to seem like the whole process is a bit laboured. But this afternoon I cut all 96 twin M&Ts. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s really quick.
I love this jig. I love the satisfaction of pressing the tenon into the mortice and hearing the air being displaced. It slots together like lego. When you pull the joint apart, you get a sucking noise! Satisfaction in woodwork is part of what makes it so appealing, and this jig certainly gives you that.
I’ve used the Trend M&T jig, and know that people here are very pleased with it. I wasn’t happy. I was getting baggy joints - about 0.8mm out, which is loads in joinery - and no means to adjust it. I gave it a good go, but sent it back. Pleased I did.
If you’ve got the cash, or the need to make many M&Ts or more complex M&Ts, this is the jig for you!
Cheers!
 

SquareCircle

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96 twin MT’s in an afternoon, and by the sounds of it, all perfect. Some piece of kit you gotten there Aragorn :D
Must confess succumbing to the Trend M&T jig (amongst other things) at the Ally Pally show last weekend. Spent quite a while at the Trend and the Leigh stalls. I probably saw half a dozen MT’s cut on the Trend over the day and they all seemed to be good plum / flush fits, complete with sucking noise as you pull the joints apart. Hope that I haven’t been hoodwinked. On the basis of apparently flawless joints from the Trend, I decided that I couldn’t live with the cost of the Leigh FMT (although Woodcraft.com were having additional 10% off last night so hello D4 plus Milwaukee router to suit). Unfortunately it’ll be another two weeks before some major building works to remove an internal dividing wall plus upgrades to the ‘shed’ is complete and then I can have a play. Then we'll see what we've truly gotten
 

Chris Knight

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Aragorn,

It sure sounds like a nice piece of kit for a lot of M/Ts. Mind you, the pencil mark method of cutting several mortises on a long workpiece looks suspiciously like another tool I am aware of!
 

Aragorn

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waterhead37":m9vuuelh said:
Mind you, the pencil mark method of cutting several mortises on a long workpiece looks suspiciously like another tool I am aware of!
If you're referring to what I suspect you are then, for gads sake, Ssssshhh!! One of them might be listening!
 

Alf

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Hmm, funny you should say that, Chris... I feel a 'RAT ATTACK coming on :lol:

Aragorn, sounds a great piece of kit. But then, at the price, I should hope so too :shock: . How about storing it when not in use? Is it heavy?

Oh, and one tiny little thing. Sanding mortises? Not that is a recipe for inaccuracy. Not that you'll need to know now, obviously :wink: , but at the very least use a file. Better still a chisel, and the best is of course a shoulder plane.

SquareCircle, is that a wee drive-by gloat you've sneaked in there by any chance? :wink:

Cheers, Alf
 

SquareCircle

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Alf

a wee gloat; never :D

OTOH just a quite feeling of accomplishment having managed to convince SHMBO that a small investment in kit and to undo some of my not so clever decisions was required to support a timely (and serious) return to the 'shed'.
In any case, it seems like I'm just playing catch up with you guys. Surfing this website has been an education. All the things I could have done differently many year ago......
 

Aragorn

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Hi Alf
No, not sanding the mortice or tenon! Sanding the finished joint after glue up! To even out the join between the rail and stile. That's what I meant! Course, I could use a plane for that too... Is there any job you don't use a plane for? :wink:
As for storage, it's robust but not heavy. It attaches to a 2' x 5" board, so it can just sit on a shelf.
 

Alf

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Aragorn":30r2eic5 said:
Is there any job you don't use a plane for? :wink:
Ermmm... can I think about that one and get back to you? :wink:

Sorry, I totally mis-understood about the sanding. I was a little surprised, I must admit. Mind you, after the rough and tumble of the making I tend to run a - er, well there's no getting around it - a plane over the joint anyway. Possibly just 'cos it's fun... :oops:

SC, persuading SWMBO to give you the all clear is a Big gloat :wink:

Cheers, Alf
 
A

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Aragorn":3ly7skqg said:
But this afternoon I cut all 96 twin M&Ts. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s really quick.
Cheers!
Aragorn

How jealous am I??? I managed to cut 2 M&Ts in an afternoon recently, by hand and trimmed with my shoulder plane. I want the Leigh M&T jig to place next to my D4.
 

Aragorn

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Well they'll look very nice next to each other - on the mantlepiece? :wink:
 

Newbie_Neil

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Hi Aragorn

You've got an absolutely wonderful piece of kit there. Each time I go to a woodworking show I just drool over the Brimarc stand when Keith is demonstrating the Leigh FMT.

I take it that as you had such a successful afternoon cutting M&T's that your client will see a reduction in the price. :lol:

Seriously though, 96 double M&T's in an afternoon is just incredible.

Cheers
Neil
 

Aragorn

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Thanks Neil
It is a lovely "tool". One reason it's so quick is that there's no setup change when doing Ms or Ts. Same router bit, same layout etc. All you have to do is lower the cutter a little bit more to stop the tenon bottoming out.
Re-positioning the table to cut the second tenon on twin tenon joints is very quick - just release a lever, slide and tighten the lever.
I can make a perfect M&T from scratch including setup in 2 minutes. Subsequent joints take less than 30 seconds each.
I'm still drooling, as you can tell :wink:
 
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Anonymous

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Aragorn":1bq4ssu4 said:
Well they'll look very nice next to each other - on the mantlepiece? :wink:
Thought I'd bolt 'em to my Rat to make it into a useful tool :lol:
 

Keith Smith

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Aragorn thanks for a great review, do you think the Leigh FMT is good value, I havn't seen one and it seems a tremendous lot of money? The thought of being able to make 90 m&t joints in a day is very appealing though.

I have the Leigh D4,I have found that to be a great piece of kit for the money, even though I still have to get the manual out every time I use it . :)

Keith
 

Aragorn

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Hi Keith
To be fair, I suppose it isn't good value as such. It is a very expensive jig given that it just cuts M&Ts, albeit in a large range of stock sizes and to unparalleled accuracy at lightening speed!
If you make a lot of M&Ts, find the whole process a bit of a chore and would prefer to be spending time on the design, shaping, and finishing of a project rather than the joinery, plus you have a fair few coins in the piggy bank, then yes go for it!
As you have the D4 you'll be familiar with Leigh's high standards. The FMT is just as good.
I'm not a Woodrat user, but it sounds as if they're really good for making a great variety of joints and at a smaller price tag too. If you prefer dedicated machines the Leigh products have no comparison. They are simply top of their class.
 

Aragorn

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Keith
Or order from Lee Valley. All in, including duty and shipping cost me around £120 less.
The cutter and guides that come with it allow for 5/16th" width M&Ts, so if you need 1/2" tenons, or other sizes best to order these guides and cutters at the same time.
Feel free to PM me if you want any further info.

A
 
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