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Mortising on the Drill Press

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Mortising on the Drill Press

Simple improvements make a mortising attachment work great.

By Tim Johnson

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Even though they’re sexy, benchtop mortising machines aren’t the only power-tool option when it comes to cutting square-shouldered mortises. A drill-press mortising attachment can be just as effective and it costs a lot less. I’ll show you how to tune any out-of–the-box mortising attachment so it’s easy to install and a joy to use.

Mortising attachments are available for almost every drill press. Although they vary in appearance, they all have three basic components: a fence, a chisel holder and a hold-down. Upgrading these parts to stabilize the workpiece and operating the drill press at the optimal speed are the keys to success.


Two-piece mortising chisels cut square holes. The auger bit fits inside the chisel and protrudes slightly. During operation, the auger drills a round hole and the four-sided chisel squares the corners. Cut side by side, square holes create mortises (see photo, above).

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This story originally appeared in American Woodworker May 2005, issue #114.

May 2005, issue #114

Purchase this back issue.

Purchase the complete version of this woodworking project story from AWBookstore.com.