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Fast Easy Mortise Making!

I am putting together an outdoor sink.   I decided to practice my mortise making.

Here is what I want to make;

To quickly make mortises first I drilled a big hole in the center and four smaller holes at the corners.  This is easy to do with a brace.

Then I cut into the corners.  This mortise is going to be an inch and a half square.  A one inch chisel is easier to handle than an inch and a half chisel in this case.

After cutting the corners, then I chip out the sides.  This method is pretty simple and quick.

Pretty quick and easy to make a mortise joint this way.


9 comments to Fast Easy Mortise Making!

  • Skip J.

    The name of this one sure caught my attention. But by drilling most of the waste out, you reduce the chisel work to a little paring, almost no chopping…. there’s a lot to be said for practice…..


  • With a long handle, so two hands can be used, often paring is more than enough for the job. In this case I used a mallet, but since I did not pry with the chisel, it stayed quite frighteningly sharp for all six mortises.


  • Skip J.

    Well the size of the mortise pretty well rules out a mortise chisel for someone like me, so chopping out on that scale would be a real chore. Altho the timber framers may do it with big mortise chisels instead of drilling and paring?

    What interests me is that by investing a little bit of time in cutting a real joint you greatly strengthen the treated pine that wants to split and warp. I still believe there’s a place for spending a little time on DIY stuff – to cut real joints – to improve the life or utility – or both – of an otherwise ordinary project. That pine would chew up a quickiee/dirty butt joint that would normally be all that kind of project would get.

    And you get to practice too – with no pressure!


  • By drilling, you reduce the number opportunities to split out and make other mistakes. Drilling can be fairly easily controlled. The pine they treat is rarely the finest wood. 4×4’s usually have core sections included, so they are the farthest thing from quartersawn. Bolts work well and can be used fairly easily, but I wanted to see if I could do it easily with hand tools.

    The joints are not tight fits, but right now the wood is quite dry, so I feared that the expanding wood might later break the joint. The rest of the construction will support and brace this in position, but the structure underneath it all will be overkill solid.

    The joint I made without drilling came out fine, but took four times as long and was tiring. The joint that I drilled the center only I made a mistake on, and still took twice as long. Most of the time spent making the rest was the drilling and setting up to drill straight.

    I also tried with a big power drill, and a drill press. The brace was faster, less work and as accurate. Probably a larger much higher horse power drill press might be faster, as long as the table was extended to support a 4×4 and it was properly jigged. For the typical home user, a sharp bit on a brace will be superior in every way, every time.


  • Skip J.

    Yes! Drilling with a brace is definitely handtooling! And you wind up with a flat bottom like a forstner, so your mortise is 1/2 way home after drilling. While waiting on my mortise chisels, I’ve drilled out smaller mortise’s in the drillpress.

    Since you’re going to come back with the paring chisel to square up anyway, I wonder if it might be just as easy to use a brace on smaller mortises too, rather than setting up the DP.

    Going to brace it underneath too? Well that ought to be a beast when you finish. And, you can use some of your green finish on it and it’ll look like it’s supposed to be that way, not treatment chemicals. Are you going to protect the feet some way from the ground? Set them on stones/bricks???

  • Three large deep sinks, filled with water are a fairly heavy thing. With a wringer and the force put on a washboard, it needs to be strong.

    Since it is a outdoor sink, I want good drainage. I have set cinder blocks on their side, with them interlaced, but with the holes matching for a sturdy enough, weather resistant deck. Cinder blocks are not the strongest when set on their side but strong enough for a well draining walkway.


  • Skip J.

    Ok – so you have a post’n beam set-up with an arch support. Are you going to run 4 x 4’s between the posts’n beams on an angle – or 2 x 4’s centered on them????

    They do the same thing with 10 x 10’s (squared logs) in my timber frame book, just on a larger scale. What’s interesting is on the angles for the support beam in between – they cut angled M&T’s on them too – with draw-bored oak pegs to hold’em of course. Essentially very large mitered joints with miter-angle M&T’s.


  • I like to draw bore, but I use bamboo. Old chopsticks do a wonderful job!

    Post and beam, with close posts. The angled supports are really more for stability than for load bearing.


  • Skip J.

    Ahhh, old chopsticks! That’s a no-brainer for size and shape… but bamboo??? There’s not a problem with “brittleness” for draw-bore pegs? Maybe use of the chopsticks wears’em down???

    I love post’n beam, I just have a hard time thinking of downsizing the joints to furniture size. A few “Woodworking Magazine” issues back, CS put a top rail (beam) onto a stile (post) with a half-lap dovetail for a small table. I thought there’s a small size timber frame joint that can go on outside furniture!

    Well, you may not need supports for load bearing, but I agree you’ll need some way to stabilize the structure.. kinda like posts in a workbench frame racking when you plane…


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