Chopping Mortises

I’ve been reading about chopping mortises, and thinking through my experience last weekend.  I think I have a better perspective on mortising now.

A couple of things I’ve been looking at:

First, watching a few videos is helpful.  This one from Paul Sellers is pretty good, he demonstrates chopping a mortise with both a heavy mortise chisel and a standard bevel edge chisel, starting from one end of the mortise and working toward the other.  The first pass he has the chisel vertical, and the bevel facing in the direction he travels across the mortise.  By the time he gets to the far end (maybe a little sooner) he’s at full depth.  Then he turns the chisel so the bevel is facing in the other direction and works back – starting just past where the mortise isn’t yet at full depth.  But this time, he holding the chisel so the bevel is vertical, so the the chisel is at maybe 30 degrees.

Another good source of information is Jeff Gorman’s web site, the section on mortising has some great pictures.  It does a really good job of illustrating some of the dynamics associated with chopping mortises.  He illustrates really well where the force is concentrated, it’s worth a careful read.

Why does my chisel go wonky?



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6 thoughts on “Chopping Mortises

  1. I’ve been really impressed with Paul Sellers’s videos. Of course, I like people who buck current trends and focus on established techniques. He has some great videos on sharpening which I have been trying out with great success and I completely agree with his assessment on workbench height recommendations. I’m not a cultish person so I rely on my own experiences to test out someone’s statements and Paul’s are usually backed up with my own first hand trials and tribulations.

    • Hi Rich, I enjoy Paul’s videos myself. I really like how he talks about getting feedback from the sound of the tool, I think that’s important. I got his DVD set as a gift last year and it was really helpful — albeit a bit overproduced for my tastes. His online videos through don’t suffer from the overproduction (flashy intros and transitions) but retain all of the good points from the DVDs. Better in fact, as I think they go into more detail and the projects are more complex.

      • I’ve not seen his DVDs personally but have read the same complaints about the overproduction. I subscribe to his Woodworking Master Classes series and I completely agree with your assessment about their value. I find his approach very relaxed and solid. He uses a lot of the same techniques but offers alternatives for people to try out when doing similar work. Very good information and his furniture style is pretty timeless, which is nice.

  2. Thanks for the link to Jeff’s site.

    • Hi Tico, Jeff’s information on mortising is really good in my opinion. I’ve read through it several times and it’s given me a lot to think about in terms of getting a handle on this skill.

  3. Peter did a nice video inspired by St. Roy :

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