Mortising Machine vs. Drill Press: Which One Makes Better Mortise & Tenon?

Mortising Machine vs. Drill PressIt holds true that mortises and tenons are often used in furniture and woodwork. Apparently, they are used more than any other than these. There are hundreds of variations out there in terms of a basic joint, although they all work in a similar fashion.

Mortise in a Glimpse

Mortise and Tenon
Mortise and Tenon. Photo by troverdifinishcarpentry

In case you did not know, a mortise and tenon joint is used in joining two pieces of wood. The process is done at a certain angle (usually 90 degrees) to each other. You would often see this joint in the construction of cabinets, chairs, doors, frames, paneling, tables, and windows, among many others.

There are a good number of ways for you to create a mortise. You can go with a dedicated mortising machine, which can really work very well. But if you want a much quieter method, you can never go wrong with a drill press, especially since it lets you see what exactly you are doing every step of the way.

In its most organic form, a mortise and tenon joint is both simple and strong. You might find a handful of variations of this type of joint, but the most basic one comprises two components:

  • the mortise hole, and
  • the tenon tongue

What Can You Create Using These Tools?

Chairs and Cabinets Mortise and Tenon Joint
Some of the many pieces of furniture where mortise and tenon joint is applied.

You certainly know how important a mortise and tenon joint is in the world of woodwork. But what can you exactly create using either a dedicated mortising machine or a drill press? You might think that they are similar in one way or another, but they actually differ in terms of what you can achieve.

A mortising machine gives you the ability to make mortises, although that is pretty much what you do with it. If you want to make mortises using a drill press, you are going to need a mortising attachment. In addition, a drill press enables you to not only make mortises but drill holes as well.

For instance, you are planning to make mortises of up to ½ inches wide. You can do so with a drill press. The latter, however, is not able to provide you the leverage of pushing the mortising chisel right into the stock.

If you are torn between which tool to use – either a mortising machine or a drill press – then you have come to the right place. The section below will give you concrete knowledge about the advantages and disadvantages of using either of them.

Advantages and Disadvantages: Mortising Machine vs Drill Press

Mortising Machine

WEN Mortiser
WEN Mortiser

Sure, a single machine can be more than capable of solving all your problems. However, the cost of a mortising machine can be a tricky one – be it in space and money. For starters, a mortising machine can breeze through 5/16” and/or 3/8” mortises. And if you plan to make mortises larger, all you have to do is make multiple passes.

Unfortunately, this dedicated machine is not really a go-to thing. Why? For instance, you want to increase the sizes of your mortises. You might notice that the machine itself tends to give up, especially if you resort to an inexpensive one.

If your goal is to create a lot of mortises on a regular basis, then feel free to move forward with a dedicated mortising machine. You can also consider one with a moveable table for more flexibility. If your goal is to obtain a quantum leap in terms of productivity, then you should be more than willing to pay the price.

Drill Press

WEN Drill Press
WEN Drill Press

Using a drill press in creating mortises is not necessarily a modern thing. In fact, the use of it dates back to archaic woodworking techniques. What you probably did not know, however, is that the use of a drill press started to become a recommended one right after efficient drill bits came to the market.

Of course, the method you want to go with will always depend on the wood you are working with. The same thing can be said for the number of mortises and the efficiency you want to achieve to get the job done.

A drill press is often used in an attempt to reduce the need for chopping. And since it enables you to remove more wood, the better your productivity is. In most cases, you might want to equip your drill press with a fence and a Forstner bit. Apparently, though, your efficiency with using a drill press solely depends on how efficient and reliable its drilling power is.

So, which tool is the best for mortising?

As you can see, there is no definitive answer here. If you see yourself making projects involving mortise and tenon joints on a regular basis, then a dedicated mortising machine is an ideal option (although you must be willing to pay the price for the best machine).

There is no shame in using a drill press either. Although the result is quite comparable to the aforementioned method, this one right here is not necessarily the fastest or even the cleanest.

The Final Verdict

Since time immemorial, there have been different devices and methods used in creating mortise and tenon joints. And since they are essential in woodworking, it is imperative that you are able to create them in the most efficient and reliable way possible.

Mortises are really straightforward to make. As long as you do not get caught up in the minutiae of making mortises perfect – be it at the bottom or end – the process should not really take that long. Tends, on the other hand, are much easier when it comes to tweaking. This is simply due to the fact that you are able to see what you are doing.

Using either a mortising machine or drill press is completely up to you. If you are more into DIY mortising, then you might want to move forward with the latter. It is inexpensive and capable of getting the job done. But if you are interested in a professional path, a machine specifically designed for mortising is the best way to go.

Leave a Reply