Homemade Slot Mortiser Has all the Right Moves

comments (29) March 11th, 2011 in blogs

Ed_Pirnik Ed Pirnik, Senior Web Producer
thumbs up 74 users recommend

A slot mortiser like this one from Laguna Tools is a wonderful luxury, but a wee bit pricey. If you think youve got the engineering chops, why not try making your own? - CLICK TO ENLARGE

A slot mortiser like this one from Laguna Tools is a wonderful luxury, but a wee bit pricey. If you think you've got the engineering chops, why not try making your own?

Photo: Laguna Tools

Way back in the seventies and eighties, Fine Woodworking used to run the ocassional story on how to build your own shop tools. I can recall reading about homemade bandsaws, lathes, crosscut saws, you name it. And while we don't really cover the topic anymore (it's a bit too esoteric for the wider audience), I've got a soft spot for those folks out there who by way of brilliant minds and a penchant for engineering, are able to concoct their own machinery--machinery that gets the job done and doesn't simply get built only to collect dust in some forgotten corner of the shop closet.

Build Your Own Bandsaw

More Homegrown Shop Tools

Thickness Sander
Crosscut Saw
Bowl Lathe
Treadle Lathe

For even more ideas, be sure to visit our comlete index of scratch-built power tools.

This little gem definitely falls under that category. Matthias Wandel's home-built slot mortiser features a single control arm that controls not just side-to-side motion, but back-and-forth as well. He's even got a click-stop setting that's brilliantly engineered to allow him to keep track of his settings in a super-precise manner.

It seems as though we see similar machines about once a year here at the office of FWW. Last May we were sent a beautiful machine that Matt Kenney had a chance to test out and demonstrate in one of our Quick Cuts videos. For a detailed plan on how to build a similar machine, be sure to check out Greg Paolini's article from FWW #174 on how to build a Shopmade Slot Mortiser.

Homemade Slot Mortiser Really Shines
Don't have $1,000-plus to spend on a slot mortiser? For far less, this woodworker built his own.


posted in: blogs, how to, Power tools, horizontal mortiser, slot mortiser, build your own tools

Comments (29)

cmtall53 cmtall53 writes: Now that I have moved into my geezer years, I really appreciate "a bit too esoteric". Some how I suspect an issue of liability, or advertizer pressure as in Oneida vs Bill Pentz
Posted: 2:20 pm on June 25th

JackCaptain JackCaptain writes: I strongly believe that the main difference between machines and human is the numerous ways we can look at the same things and have different interpretations from these views.

I that sense, YES, I need a 74th or more ways to look at dovetails and YES, Mattias views are adding to the richness of woodworking.

Having to adopt the only one view, one opinion would just kill my dreams or just kill myself.

To FWW: open some of your pages to Mattias... but do not hire him, you would kill him!

I am a happy FWW subscriber and I will continue to be for years....but I will continue to sneak aside...

Long live Mattias
Posted: 6:05 am on April 29th

hubbardmonkeys hubbardmonkeys writes: Seriously, FW editors deemed this less interesting to readers than how to make your own metal drawer pulls (#212)?
Posted: 7:19 am on April 27th

Mark_Oregon Mark_Oregon writes: We need young creative minds such as Matthias. I have no intention of turning this into a political debate but I came to this country 35 years ago with a vision of having found Eden. Sadly I saw us slipping away year after year by not adhering to the things that made us renowned and the envy of the world (good work ethics, pride in quality such as great cars, best made tools, etc.). Our strength always came from the creative spark that is uniquely American. Here we have a great example of what a nimble minded Canadian can do on a small scale that has drawn praises from everybody in this forum (not a single person had something bad to say). We have plenty more young men and women of the same caliber. We need to support talent such as this and think of ways to encourage more of it. FW can do their part by publishing articles along these lines. I wouldn't worry too much about the ad revenue of tool manufacturers that think about what's good for them as opposed to what's good for the country. For every company that decides to leave there is going to be plenty people such as Matthias who will fill the void with solid ideas that we can support with our dollars. I can actually afford buying a $1000 mortising tool made in China but I will buy the plans instead and along the way have fun building my own tool and ego. I'm damn proud of you Matthias, keep up the great work.
Posted: 2:50 pm on April 26th

MotorT MotorT writes: You know if you add, an X,Y,Z Servos you won't have to crank and move that thing by hand. LOL. Great set up.
Posted: 6:24 pm on April 9th

Trav_Wilson Trav_Wilson writes: I agree completely. Hire this man as soon as possible. His mind is a Canadian natural resource.
Posted: 6:12 pm on April 2nd

Rueban1 Rueban1 writes: Too esoteric? I always open the magazine to hoping that there will be another article on building machines. Now I know why we don’t see them any more. I have build some of those machines that you have featured that I use all the time and I constantly go back to the articles and clip pages for ideas that help me build machines to do my work. One of my biggest was a slot mortiser that was inspired by a homemade lathe design in the magazine.
Posted: 8:43 pm on March 21st

woodeye woodeye writes: FWW appears to be using Matthias Wandel and his video skills to sell plans for another inferior version of a slot mortiser.

You should buy the real deal from Matthias or better yet buy his pantorouter design.

The panto router is more versitile than the slot mortise machine.
Posted: 8:43 pm on March 20th

DDUCK DDUCK writes: This is the real deal! I designed and built my own a while back, but I will modify mine to include a neat little trick of his.His design is superior and FWW needs a lot more like him! -Tim
Posted: 6:22 am on March 18th

mulgaman mulgaman writes: and who ordered an FMT Pro 3 days ago, arrrgh
Posted: 3:19 am on March 16th

GarageWoodworks GarageWoodworks writes: Ed - A link to the guys site would have been a nice touch to your article.
Posted: 5:44 pm on March 15th

terryb terryb writes: It's precisely because this type of article was chucked years ago that I ended my subscription to FWW. I don't need to know a 73rd way to hand-cut a dovetail joint.
Posted: 11:40 am on March 15th

Dean7 Dean7 writes: I think the most amazing home built machine that I've seen in Fine Woodworking magazine was on the back cover of the April 1994 issue (No. 105). Unfortunately, unlike the other articles, the only information on this machine (a belt sander), is in a side bar next to the picture on the back page.

By the way Ed, the link for the Thickness Sander under "More Homegrown Shop Tools" seems to be broken. I did a search and found an article at the link below. Is this the one?

Thanks, Dean
Posted: 10:18 am on March 15th

mava mava writes: PS: his Pantarouter is even better than his slot mortiser!!! Check it out at his website. I built one from his plans. Total genius!
Posted: 9:36 am on March 15th

mava mava writes: Matthias is just what FW needs!!! FW needs to hire him right now!!!
Posted: 9:24 am on March 15th

dramer dramer writes: I was wondering when you guys were going to get around to featuring this guy! Except for the fact that everything he does is in metric, his imagination and ingenuity are inspiring. If you can acquire him as an author/SME you'd really be able to put a neat spin on the FW corpus. He's not a "master woodworker" in the classic FW sense, but I've always had trouble understanding the fetish with that anyway. He has a can-do attitude and a scientific approach that are definitely worth capturing more intentionally.
Posted: 9:02 am on March 15th

Vlad_S Vlad_S writes: Ed, thanks for posting this. I too was originally hooked on FW from reading all those "bit too esoteric" articles in the back issues and collected-article books so I'm really happy we as editors have the space for putting these things here. This machine is fabulous, and in times like these when not everyone can pony up the coin for a big, thousand-dollar machine, this machine is quite impressive and very useful. Thanks for sharing this with us all, and Matthias, excellent work!
Posted: 8:51 am on March 15th

MacMarty15221 MacMarty15221 writes: It's great to see Matthias' awesome work showing up in the mainstream woodworking media. He has not just created precise smooth-runing machinery, he has been able to prepare plans for these machines, with sales and distribution through the internet. If you have more more time than money, he has some awesome tools for you. (Ron Gingery reborn for woodworking!)

Way to go, Matthias!
Posted: 8:40 am on March 15th

ScottMax ScottMax writes: I love the shop built tools and Woodgears has some of the most interesting. But this pocket hole machine has really got my attention now. Check it out and some of the other videos on the Woodentoolcompany YouTube channel
It's addictive stuff to watch
Posted: 7:26 am on March 15th

Slauterhause Slauterhause writes: This guy is a genius. I've been watching his videos, and examining his machines, and I'm humbled by his creativity and matching ability. Very inspirational read.
Posted: 7:16 am on March 15th

kbaum kbaum writes: to saschafer's comment I would add... and think harder about each renewal. The unfortunate fact is that shop made tool makers don't buy ad space.
Posted: 7:05 am on March 15th

Jon_Shackelford Jon_Shackelford writes: Very inspiring story/video. Reminds me of the days when I used to make more shop tools/jigs -- instead of buying a fancy machined version. There is a certain pride to building your our tools. I felt more resourceful (and frugal) back then. I wish FWW would re-introduce these kinds of articles on a regular basis.
Posted: 6:00 am on March 15th

philtomlinson philtomlinson writes: You really have to check out his other tools:

His "pantorouter" is amazing.

Posted: 5:32 am on March 15th

lacoupe lacoupe writes: I agree with saschafer.Maybe the slot mortiser is in fact a WoodRat on its side.The concepts have been around for many decades but the satisfaction is in making your own.....well done Matthias
Posted: 3:05 am on March 15th

gilbert1001 gilbert1001 writes: Hi all,

I built this Slot Mortiser from the plans of Woogear, and it's perfect.

Posted: 2:45 am on March 15th

Ken Smith Ken Smith writes: I'd second saschafer, the tool building articles were my favorites, I'd kind of forgotten that they were gone. Please consider bringing them back!
Posted: 2:35 am on March 15th

Ed_Pirnik Ed_Pirnik writes: Hey Steve: I hear ya. In fact, that's what's so fantastic about the website. I can do so many things on here that I can't necessarily do in print. Opens up a LOT of other avenues for woodworkers. When I was in college (RIT) I took several classes at the School for American Crafts. They had an awesome horizontal mortising machine that was so fun to use. I've always wanted to build a rig like this but fear the project - the intricacies of all the moving parts would take me forever to execute properly. Perhaps the coolest aspect of this guy's rig is the fact that he can move on two axes with the same handle. Just awesome!

Posted: 8:34 am on March 14th

villareal villareal writes: This guy's shop-made bandsaw is impressive.
Posted: 1:03 am on March 13th

saschafer saschafer writes:
You know, it's those "a bit too esoteric" topics that are the reason that some of us have subscribed over the years...


Posted: 8:01 pm on March 11th

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