8 Best Mortising Machines of 2021 – Top Picks & Reviews
Mortising machines are not one of the first tools to graze most workshops, but they are important when you need to cut square holes. Many brands are available, but it can be challenging to find good information regarding which one you should purchase since it’s not such a popular tool.
We’ve chosen eight mortising machines to review for you so you can learn a little more about the differences between them and what makes one better than another. We’ll tell you about any special features they have or any problems we had while using them. We’ve also included a short buyer’s guide where we take a close look at mortising machines to see how they work and what you should look for before purchasing one.
Join us while we look at RPM, weight, horsepower, chisel bits, and more to help you make an educated purchase.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Delta 14-651 Mortiser||
|Best Value||WEN 43012 Cast Iron Bench Mortiser||
|Premium Choice||Makita 7104L Chain Mortiser||
|Jet 708580 Bench Mortiser||
|Powermatic 1791310 Bench Mortiser||
The 8 Best Mortising Machines – Reviews 2021
1. Delta 14-651 Mortiser – Best Overall
The Delta 14-651 Mortiser is our choice for the best overall mortising machine. It uses a large 0.5 horsepower (HP) motor that can produce up to 1,725 revolutions per minute (RPM). It features a rotating head that you can turn to use for off table mortising, and it has an adjustable depth stop to prevent you from drilling in too deep. The multi-position feed lever matches the correct position to the job, and a large cast-iron base brings the total weight to 77 pounds, which helps keep the drill from moving while it runs. It has an 18.6-inch cutting diameter and a rack and pinion fence for precise mortising, and it includes 4 mortising chisels and bits so you can get started immediately.
The only thing we found wrong with the Delta 14-651 was the plastic knobs that hold the fence in place. It’s easy to twist these flimsy knobs too hard, which can damage and ruin the fence’s stability if you’re not careful.
2. WEN 43012 Cast Iron Bench Mortiser – Best Value
The WEN 43012 Cast Iron Bench Mortiser is our pick as the best mortising machine for the money. This tool features a 5-amp motor that can deliver up to 1725 RPM. The spindle can travel up to 4.25 inches, and it has a large 13.5” x 6” table. It weighs a little over 60 pounds and features a large cast iron base to keep it in place. It features onboard tool and chisel storage and comes with 3 chisel bits to help you get started.
The only thing we didn’t like about it was that the included chisels bits wear out very quickly, so you’ll need to find a replacement as soon as possible.
3. Makita 7104L Chain Mortiser – Premium Choice
The Makita 7104L Chain Mortiser is our premium choice mortising machine. It features an extremely powerful 10.5-amp motor that can reach speeds up to 3,200 RPM without bogging down on any wood. The large adjustable vice allows you to fasten it to your project securely, and it’s highly portable at only 38.1 pounds. All adjustments are intuitive and easily accomplished, and we found it required very little maintenance even after considerable use.
The biggest problem with the Makita is the poorly written manual that contains tiny text and does not explain how to use the tool very well. If you are new to using the mortising machine, you will likely need to look up some YouTube videos to replace these instructions.
4. Jet 708580 Bench Mortiser
The Jet 708580 Bench Mortiser features an 8.5-HP motor that can reach up to 1,752 RPM, which is more than suitable for mortising most woods. The rack and pinion head provides smooth operation for its entire range of movement. The removable on-off toggle switch is unique and protects the machine from accidental use when you’re not around. It’s relatively lightweight at about 44 pounds and comes with 3 chisel bits.
We found the chuck to be very clunky, and it didn’t work well with the key. It was very rough changing bits, and it felt like there was a problem internally as we turned the key. The fence was also hard to move accurately, and tiny adjustments were nearly impossible.
5. Powermatic 1791310 Bench Mortiser
The Powermatic 1791310 Bench Mortiser features a heavy-duty and reversible handle that you can install on either side of the head without tools to facilitate right and left and use and working from opposite sides of the machine. The double locking system keeps your work in place, and two integrated bit and chisel spaces allow for quick setup. The huge 0.75-HP motor can produce up to 1,725 RPM, which is enough to mortise any wood. The quick-action cam lock enables you to lock the fence in position with a single 90° turn, and inline depth stop prevents you from drilling too deep with its 5.5-inch stroke. It features an integrated chisel into a folder and includes four chisel bits to get you started.
At roughly 90 pounds, this is a little under the heavy side, especially if you need to move into position when you use it. The fence has a protective coating that we found nearly impossible to remove, and you need to be careful because the aluminum fence is somewhat flimsy and easily bent. The table surface is also extremely rough, and it’s hard to get a detailed cleaning.
6. Shop Fox W1671 Mortising Machine
The Shop Fox W1671 Mortising Machine features a unique swiveling base to help you deal with larger stock and extend versatility. An extra-long rocker arm with a gas string return makes accurate mortising a breeze by allowing smoother, more precise movement of the chisel bit. It has an adjustable depth stop to prevent you from going too deep, and a micro-adjustable fence helps position your project properly. The 0.75-HP motor can reach up to 3,450 RPM, which should be more than enough for any project.
The downside to the Shop Fox is that it’s a bit heavy at 90 pounds and difficult to get a good grip on when moving it into position. Setting up the gas spring return requires you to press down on the spring and attach a ball, which is more difficult than it sounds, and the project table uses a flimsy, low-quality particle board that will last long in a busy workshop.
7. PORTER-CABLE 513 Lock Mortiser
The PORTER-CABLE 513 Lock Mortiser features one of the large is motors on this list at 1.75-HP. It’s capable of spinning as fast as 27,500 RPM and can make short work of almost any project, cutting 4-inch mortises in seconds. It’s extremely lightweight at only 34 pounds and comes with 2 chisel bits to get you started.
The biggest problem with the PORTER-CABLE 513 is that you can only use proprietary drill bits, and they are quite expensive. These bits also wear down quite quickly compared to others making it frustrating to use them for multiple jobs. It may be less of a problem if you have a reliable Porter-Cable parts dealer in your area.
8. RIKON Power Tools Benchtop X/Y Mortiser
The RIKON 34-260 Power Tools Benchtop X/Y Mortiser is an incredibly versatile tool and allows you to use the table to set up many interesting angles impossible with other models. It uses a 0.5-HP motor to reach up to 1,750 RPM, and an adjustable stop prevents you from cutting too deep. A gas field stabilizer helps keep the unit in place while you work, and a table plant locks your project in place. It features an integrated tool holder and includes four chisel bits.
The downside to the RIKON 34-260 is that it’s quite heavy and difficult to get into position at 93.2 pounds. If you usually transport your mortising machine to the job, this may not be the unit for you. The finish is also very rough on this unit, and it almost looks like it wasn’t ready for packaging. The included chisel bits are very low quality and will hardly mortise anything before it’s dull and useless. We believe the low-quality bits also cause the machine to jam frequently.
Here are a few things to look for when choosing a mortising machine for your woodshop.
How Does a Mortising Machine Work?
Mortising machines use special drill bits called a Square Chisel Mortiser to square off round holes. The specialized bit is in two pieces and has an inner auger that creates the outer square’s chiseling action and removes wood shavings. The outer part is square with sharp edges for chiseling the wood. The quality of the bit matters because if the inner auger cannot remove enough material, it can jam up the chisel, preventing it from operating correctly.
When it comes to Mortising Machines, we usually use horsepower to describe the motor’s strength, but you may also see it listed as amps or watts. More horsepower will provide more torque, allowing you to chisel and mortise harder woods. If all things are equal, choose a brand with more horsepower, and we recommend a unit with at least 0.5 horsepower to prevent it from bogging down while you’re working. We tried to list the motor size for each product in our reviews.
A higher RPM allows you to finish the task quicker, but you may find lower RPM better when it comes to mortising machines because it’s easier to control and get a more accurate cut. We’ve experienced the best results around 1,500 RPM, but your experience may be different, and we’ve provided higher RPM models on our list as well. If you’ve never used one of these machines before, we recommend the lower RPM models until you have more experience.
We’ve tried to list the RPM of each machine on our list.
The weight of your mortising machine is important for two reasons. First, if the weight is too low, the machine may move or walk because of the vibrations created when it’s running. If the weight is too high, it won’t be easy to move the machine where you need it, and many people use mortising machines as portable devices.
It can be challenging to find a machine that stays put yet is portable, and the ideal weight will differ from person to person, but we recommend finding a unit that weighs at least 30 pounds, or you may find the machine travels as you’re using it. We tried to list the weight of each machine in our reviews.
The table is where you place your work and usually works in conjunction with the fence to keep your project steady while you use the mortiser. A larger table will allow for a larger project. Unfortunately, many of the tables on this list are rather small, so some tools get around this limitation by providing a head that swivels so you can use it without the table.
We recommend considering the projects you want to use your mortising machine on well in advance so you can inspect the tables to make sure they are large enough to work with your project.
Ease of Adjustment
Many mortising machines offer complex fencing and table positions, and they will also require frequent but changing adjustments. Some machines make accomplishing these tasks much simpler than others, and if you use these machines often, spending an extra minute changing a bit can really add up over time. Even worse is that if you don’t know how to make the adjustments, you will reduce the machine’s versatility.
We recommend learning how these machines work before purchasing to know what to look at if you see one on display. It’s also important to find a brand that provides you with adequate instructions, and we’ve pointed out any brands in our reviews that left out this important step.
When choosing a mortising machine for your woodshop, we couldn’t recommend the Delta 14-651 Mortiser more. It provides you with plenty of power at an ideal RPM. It has a large cutting surface and is easy to adjust and change bits. If you’re looking for something with a bit higher RPM, we recommend our premium choice. The Makita 7104L Chain Mortiser produces up to 3,200 RPM and is extremely portable and only 33 pounds.
We hope you have enjoyed reading over our reviews and learn something new from our buyer’s guide. If we have helped you find your next tool, please share these eight best mortising machines on Facebook and Twitter.
More buying guides like this:
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- Best Commercial Log Splitters 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 8 Best Mortising Machines – Reviews 2021
- 1. Delta 14-651 Mortiser – Best Overall
- 2. WEN 43012 Cast Iron Bench Mortiser – Best Value
- 3. Makita 7104L Chain Mortiser – Premium Choice
- 4. Jet 708580 Bench Mortiser
- 5. Powermatic 1791310 Bench Mortiser
- 6. Shop Fox W1671 Mortising Machine
- 7. PORTER-CABLE 513 Lock Mortiser
- 8. RIKON Power Tools Benchtop X/Y Mortiser
- Buyer’s Guide