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Large stand-alone mortisers have been around for nearly a century, but now several manufacturers offer more affordable stand-alone models with features that make them practical for serious hobbyists and small commercial shops. Compared with the drill-press add-ons and benchtop mortisers currently on the market, these mortisers feature lots of cast-iron tables that move, sturdy hold-downs, 1-hp motors, and extralong lever handles. Curious to find out just how well these machines work, I tested seven of them.
All things considered, I was pleased to find that all seven were well made and did a decent job cutting accurate mortises, even when running a 3/4-in. bit. That puts them head and shoulders above any of the drill-press add-ons or benchtop mortisers I’ve used. So it wasn’t easy to choose a favorite.
The Fisch mortiser had plenty of power, cutting 3/4-in. square holes with little effort. But compared with the other machines I tested, the fence, the table, and the hold-down systems were rather awkward to use and not completely effective. Also, with no dampening system, the spring return was less than ideal. The farther down the head was moved, the faster it wanted to snap back to the uppermost position.
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