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I have been trying to learn how to make a mortise and tenon joint using a simple jig. The jig is just a 2x4 with some stop blocks. I am making a 1/2 inch mortise 3 inches long in a 2x4 to make a frame for a shed door. I made several test mortises in scrap. I'm using a palm router with 1\4 inch up spiral bit. I have an edge guide on the router. I don't have a plunge router, so I still a hole to the depth with a drill. I then start the router bit in this hole. I route from stop to stop and in 1\4 inch increments until I get to the depth, 1 3\4 inch. Then I adjust the edge guide and cut a slot right next to the one I did. Sometimes it comes out good, but sometimes the router goes off and cuts into the edge of the material. It's very inconsistent. I get a nice mortise on one end of the board and then the other side is ruined. I wonder if I should be using a single 1\2 inch bit and try to cut the mortise income pass, instead of cutting two slots side by side. I then clean up the mortises with an oscillating tool. Any advice?
 

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Do you have a drill press? Much easier to hog out a mortise that way with a forstner bit, then use a super sharp, hair shaving sharp, chisel to clear it out. Position the piece under the bit, bracing it against the fence. Mortising by hand takes a lot of patience with the chisel work. Did I mention sharpness?

When you cut the tenon, make it slightly oversize and trim it down to an exact fit using a rabbet plane. Hope this video helps.

 

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I would suggest you fill out your bio Signet because what you have for tools to work with makes a big difference in what we suggest. I don't recommend you use an oscillating tool to clean up the mortise because it's very hard to control it well enough to make sure it stays and cuts vertical. I also don't recommend you try using a 1/2" bit unless you are using a plunge. You'll never be able to keep the bit from biting into the sides when it starts up and you'll likely lose control of the router. You could use a drill press and fence (a board clamped to the table qualifies as a fence) and drill a series of holes side by side and then clean up with a chisel.

You can also make a jig to help guide the chisel and you can see what it is in this video by Paul Sellers.
The whole video is worth watching but the part I'm referring to starts about the 20 minute mark. If you use this method then use a 1/4 to 3/8" chisel to remove most of the waste and then switch to a wide one to clean up the sides. You can make the jig on a table saw. Raise the blade gradually to sneak up on the fit that will match it to your lay out lines.

Having a plunge would make this job fast and easy. I recently showed a simple mortising jig that takes 10 minutes to make but you need a plunge and guide bushings to use it. It's in the Shop Hacks thread by Paduke.
 

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Using your existing jig and router, do multiple plunges with an end cutting router bit to the desired final depth. Then go back and clean out the mortise using increasing passes, but in the direction that pulls the router guide against the wood. If you move it the other way the bit will want to tend to lift the guide off the wood and ruin your cut. A top bearing mortising bit and a pattern with a hole to guide the bit will do a better job than a router edge guide, but what you have will work if you only do the cutting in the one correct direction that will tend to pull the guide against the side of the work.

Charley
 

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You could use a drill press and fence (a board clamped to the table qualifies as a fence) and drill a series of holes side by side and then clean up with a chisel.
if you choose to use a drill bit to hog out the mortise, DO NOT use a spade bit...
the extended guide point of the spade bit will bore past the bottom of the mortise and will/could set up a fissure/fault line in the grain leading to the stock that the mortise is in SPLITTING...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for all the great information. My FIL had a Forster bit set, but I can't find it. I managed to get my mortises done. I cut the tenons on the table saw with a jig that I made from plans on the internet. This went well. I don't know why. But I seem to have better luck with the table saw. I guess I will have to get a plunge router. I have three routers, but no plunge. I have very limited experience with the chisel. If I touched one of my Gil's chisels when he was alive, he would get very angry. It still feels funny using his tools. I also have no idea how to sharpen a chisel. He tried to show me how to sharpen drill bits, but we always got into an argument. I wound up buying a drill Dr. , Which I really like.
It just puzzles me how I would follow the same procedure with routing the mortises and get different results. Sometimes they were spot on. I really want to learn how to use this equipment. Thanks for all the advice.
 

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We do welcome all questions here on about any subject you can come up w/ also....
Not only that, we excel at spending your money...

your chisels...

.
 

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I managed to get my mortises done. I cut the tenons on the table saw with a jig that I made from plans on the internet. This went well. I don't know why. But I seem to have better luck with the table saw. .
next set of tenons..
install dado blade..
set the fence to the length of the dado measuring from the left side of the blade...
lay the stock flat on the TS...
use the miter gauge to move the material in multiple passes...

Note:
cut the 1st tenon on scrap to get the correct blade height setting...
super fine tuning a tenon is easiest w/ a shoulder or rabbet plane...
 

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@CharleyL That is what I was going to bring up is direction of cut,the way the router moves. If you are doing it in 2 passes go down one way and back the other, make sure the router is turning opposite of the direction you are cutting.
When I first started out years ago doing mortise and tenons, We didn't have routers, so we laid out the mortise and drilled a series of holes the length of the mortise. Then when Routers came out I did the same thing and instead of cleaning the partitions out between the holes with a Chisel, I used a router.
Herb
 

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I'm thinking some pictures would be helpful...can you post some of the jig, the end results...?
 

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If you are doing this to learn that's one thing but if you are only going to do it once for a shed door then you are barking up the wrong tree. A shed door can be easily made with half-lap joints in less time than it would take to properly set up the router. If the door is going to be completely covered with the same wood that the shed is being made of then any type of joint would work because the outside of the door is where the strength will be. If you are planning on doing a lot of mortise joints in the future invest in a mortising machine. A router is fine but the right tool is always best.
 

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If you are doing this to learn that's one thing but if you are only going to do it once for a shed door then you are barking up the wrong tree. A shed door can be easily made with half-lap joints in less time than it would take to properly set up the router. If the door is going to be completely covered with the same wood that the shed is being made of then any type of joint would work because the outside of the door is where the strength will be. If you are planning on doing a lot of mortise joints in the future invest in a mortising machine. A router is fine but the right tool is always best.
I agree with you partially Art but a mortiser has some severe limitations on what it can put a mortise in. It works great at putting a mortise in the face of a board but it has to be a really short board to put one in the end as you would need for making mortises in the rails of a door frame. I made a screen door for my front porch and had no choice but to use a router since the rails and center cross piece were somewhere around 30" long. I could have possibly done them with my mortise attachment on my drill press by turning the table to vertical and rigging up a way to clamp the pieces to it but it was much simpler to make a jig to do it with a router.

By the way Signet, I went with floating tenons instead of mortise and tenon. With floating tenons you make a mortise in both sides of the joint and the tenon can be plywood or something you cut on a table saw. It's just as strong as the regular M & T joint and I find it easier since there is no playing around trying to fit a tenon to each mortise. Since all the mortises are the same by virtue of the router bit and jig then once you have the tenon material sized to fit you just keep chopping pieces off it at the mitre saw.
 

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Lots of ways to accomplish what you want to do.

Sharpening chisels is kind of a pleasure for me. It need not be terribly expensive because you can start out with various grits of sandpaper. You need a very flat surface for the sandpaper to sit on. I went to a glass shop and the guy gave me a slab of very thick plate glass. He even sanded down the sharp edges.

Lots of videos on how to do this, often called the scary sharp method.

After doing all my chisels to razor sharpness, I keep diamond encrusted sharpening "stones" on hand so every time I use a chisel, I give it 3-5 swipes on the diamond stone, one or two on the back side (sharpening can create a burr), and the chisel never loses its edge. NEVER use a chisel as a pry bar or to scrape off some substance. It will be ruined in short order.

Once you start using a truly sharp chisel you realize it is really more a slicing tool than something you have to drive with a mallet. They are a pleasure to use. Hand planes are much the same, a pleasure to use when sharp.

Stick's pdfs are a really good way to read about and learn, yet nothing will teach you more than making things.
 
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