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Milling machine as a morticer?

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Robin Graham18/04/2015 22:51:44
763 forum posts
188 photos

Hi. Apologies if this is the wrong place to be asking. More 'home workshop' than model engineering but... I've recently moved house and I need to do some woodworking to renovate the new place. This will involve making quite a few mortice and tenon joints. I can chop mortices by hand, but I'm very slow, so was thinking of getting a morticing machine. Looking at them they seem a bit like engineering milling machines, but obviously with a different tool holding arrangement. I'm going to buy a Warco GH Universal mill soon, which seems a beefier machine than the morticers within my means, so I thought maybe I could make some sort of adaptor to take mortice chisels. I know that there are mortice attachments for pillar drills, but they seem to get a bad press which I think is mainly due to lack of rigidity - which presumably wouldn't be an issue with a 320kg mill. Long shot I know, but has anyone tried this? Or is it an insane idea?

Regards, Robin

Roderick Jenkins18/04/2015 23:35:18
1945 forum posts
503 photos

Milling cutters work pretty well with wood. If you don' t mind making round ended tenons then you could just mill the mortices.

You may get some abuse for Introducing the brown stuff onto this forum wink. Ignore it - wood IS an engineering material.surprise



"Bill Hancox"18/04/2015 23:49:36
256 forum posts
76 photos


Go with a morticing machine. I also highly recommend the conical diamond sharpening tools to keep the chisels surgically sharp. Mounted in the pillar drill (press), they sharpen a morticing chisel in a few seconds. I have one that cuts both blind and through mortices superbly. If you choose to cut mortices on your milling machine, you will probably find yourself spending far more time cleaning your mill than you did cutting mortices. It always pays to remember that wood dust and chips attract moisture and can result in rust problems.



I.M. OUTAHERE18/04/2015 23:57:03
1468 forum posts
3 photos

You could mill out the mortice then square up the ends with a chisel.

"Bill Hancox"19/04/2015 01:21:01
256 forum posts
76 photos


Sorry for the misspellings in my previous post. I believe the correct spellings are MORTISE and MORTISING. Naughty me.



Roger Provins 219/04/2015 04:48:22
344 forum posts

Depends which side of the pond you are. In English it's mortice whereas in American English it's mortise.

Edited By Roger Provins 2 on 19/04/2015 04:49:13

Roger Provins 219/04/2015 04:53:16
344 forum posts

Many woodworkers cut their mortice and tenon joints with routers and jigs - not so far removed from using a mill I guess.

JasonB19/04/2015 07:43:53
18899 forum posts
2082 photos
1 articles

Just use a 2 flute cutter so it clears the waste easily and leave the ends round and shape your tennons to suit, no different to a slot morticer.

You may find the rack & pinion will suffer on the milling machine, ones on morticers are of far heavier construction and the handles much longer, it does take a bit of effort to drive a morticing bit especially into hardwoods.

The same problem that affects the drill press mortice bits will also affect your mill and that is that they eat up room between the table and spindle so work out sizes before you go down that route

JA19/04/2015 08:43:40
980 forum posts
54 photos

I overheated and blued a 1/4" slot cutter cutting grooves in soft wood. The cutter speed was between 800 and 1000 rpm (no coolant was used).


norman valentine19/04/2015 09:07:53
250 forum posts
35 photos

There is a morticing machine for sale at £80 on the Home Workshop site

"Bill Hancox"19/04/2015 09:39:52
256 forum posts
76 photos
Posted by Roger Provins 2 on 19/04/2015 04:48:22:

Depends which side of the pond you are. In English it's mortice whereas in American English it's mortise.

Edited By Roger Provins 2 on 19/04/2015 04:49:13

Thank you for that. I thought that might be the case. However, when I activated the posting box spell checker it identified "mortice" as misspelled. Must be an American version of spell checker.


Robbo19/04/2015 10:09:12
1504 forum posts
142 photos


The slot morticers fitted to some multi-purpose woodworking machines used a 2-flute slot cutter with a coarse twist. Were just like a milling machine but usually fitted on the side of the multi-purpose. The main problem is the mess, but you should be able to cover up, or attach an extractor/ vacuum cleaner close to the work area.

Don't run it too fast or you will start a fire!



edited to turn flut into flute. and to add "woodworking"

Edited By Robbo on 19/04/2015 10:09:49

Edited By Robbo on 19/04/2015 10:11:58

Bazyle19/04/2015 10:33:54
5473 forum posts
206 photos

You didn't mention the size and nature of the work. Maybe you are doing 6 in holes in old oak which might work better if treated like steel. Softwood doesn't cut well with a morticer as the tough stringy annual 'dark lines' are not well enough supported by the rest and pull and tear.

You would be better off getting a decent router and hand finishing the round ends as it will have loads of other uses long term.

Wood needs to be cut fast, very fast with machinery. Because it is soft (compared to metal) there is no support to the part being cut so has to be cut before it has time to move - relying on momentum to stop it moving. Because of the high speed of the cutter you also have to keep it moving fast so the individual slices are big enough. The bit is said to be cooled by it's contact with the wood it is cutting more than heated by the friction of the cut, provide you keep moving it into fresh cool wood.

dave greenham19/04/2015 12:14:47
100 forum posts

Hi Robin

you could make the job easier if you don't mind spending a few quid. Machinemart do a conversion kit to turn a post drill into a mortiser. I think they are around £30 to £40 the last time I looker. Go online to find out.


Neil Wyatt19/04/2015 13:58:02
18237 forum posts
714 photos
77 articles

> Must be an American version of spell checker.

Once you've enabled it, you can change the language setting.


ian j19/04/2015 14:30:20
290 forum posts
258 photos

By coincidence only this week I've built a wooden gate for a neighbour> It only took minutes to cut each 5"L x 1/2"W x 2 1/2" D mortice on the milling machine using a Trend two flute tungsten router cutter. Far quicker and accurate than I can do them by hand. I just squire of the ends with a 1/2" wood chisel. This gate was pine but I've cut mortices in hard wood as well with very good results but as already mentioned keep the speed down or you fill the workshop with smoke!


Robin Graham19/04/2015 21:03:21
763 forum posts
188 photos

Thanks to all who have replied to this thread. Much food for thought as ever. I should have said that my main projects are to make window frames (thirteen) and internal doors (nine), so fairly ambitious for a tyro. The house is Georgian and I'm trying to get some of its original character back - I would guess it was last refurbished in the 1960's in a sort of Barry Bucknell (forum members of my generation will remember him) style. The one remaining original door, which I was planning to use as a pattern, has through tenons in four-inch stiles - I have a 2kW router but don't think I can cut that deep by routing.

I was poised to buy a morticing machine, then it struck me that as I was planning on getting a mill anyway, maybe I could save some money by adapting it - I thought that as metalworking machines are generally sturdier than woodworking machines, it might be feasible and someone out there would have done it. JasonB has explained the main difference - the rack and pinion in the morticer is much heftier, thanks Jason, that was the 'missing link' in my reasoning.

Probably best to develop my hand-chopping skills, I'm retired so time-rich cash poor. Just need to realise that I don't have to work to deadlines any more!

Thanks again for all your advice, Robin.


Disclaimer: The author of this post regrets and apologises for any orthographical or syntactic irregularities which may be contained within, but accepts no responsibility for any hypertension, apoplexy, or other distress caused to readers.

Edited By Robin Graham on 19/04/2015 21:04:29

Malcolm Harvey19/04/2015 21:25:09
30 forum posts
1 photos

Dave Greenham has given you the best idea. I work with wood for a living and it comes to me much quicker than metal working. It is standard practice if you have a pedestal or bench drill but do not wish to buy a mortice machine to use the conversion kit that he mentions. This will then take the correct type of hollow square mortice chisel bits that are used in mortice machines and you will get square ended mortices properly cut.

My spell checker is also American and I will spell it MORTICE ! cheeky

Bazyle20/04/2015 00:30:14
5473 forum posts
206 photos

If you end up using a regular drill press with a morticing attachment put a scissor jack under the table to take the strain.

The Americans use 'regular' milling machines for woodworking and I believe. Grizzly sold a range with larger tables specifically for woodworkers.

pgk pgk20/04/2015 07:55:49
1913 forum posts
288 photos

I'm in the mood to throw a few of my own thoughts into the mix. The georgian period covers over a century of time and a polific variation in windows and doors. Goergians didn't have double glazing or much central heating and did have maids and home help. They ddnt have microwaves, on demand gas fired hot water or soft toilet paper.

In other words we wouldn't really want to live like a georgian had to so any renovations will tend to be 'in the style of' rather than authentic repros as in sash windows with better thermal insuation and double (or triple) glazing that don't stick or rattle.

If one takes that approach then the end result only has to look 'right'.. how you achieve it doesn't then matter - gorilla glue, epoxy, dowels - whatever hidden, functional strong joint you like. They also had a limited paint palette doubtless laced with copious amounts of lead.

I reached the conclusion that doors, architraves and internal woodwork is best unpainted.. stained, varnished or just waxed - makes future redec and maitenance a heck of a lot easier.

Yes, there's great satisfaction in hand-making this sort of stuff - just as the georgina chippy would have hand chopped his joints and then boiled up that smelly granular glue to stick it all together.. all the while his grandfather nagging at him for using modern stuff when he could could save money by havesting bluebells and making his own sticky...

( putting my stirring stick away now)

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