Written by Jeremy Horelick
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A mortiser is used to cut holes in wood for the mortise-and-tenon joinery you typically find on cabinets and doors. The result is an invisible joint that's still strong enough to bear the weight of swinging doors (or even sitting or reclining human beings). Because of the high degree of skill necessary to create this kind of joint, furniture with mortises and tenons tend to be of a higher overall quality.

Many do-it-yourself types shy away from the mortiser because it strikes them as a one-dimensional tool. Whereas a router can be used for sanding, boring, and a host of other applications, a mortiser is really only good for one purpose. What's more, anyone who's handy with a drill press and has the right attachments can approximate the work done by a mortiser.

So Why Buy a Mortiser?

After a while, home-improvement specialists and more seasoned hobbyists tire of trying to accomplish their mortising tasks with a tool that was never made to handle them in the first place. If you've got a three-eighths-of-an-inch mortise to cut, and all you've got is a 12-inch press, you may find yourself struggling to make the holes you need, especially in hardwood surfaces. It may be time to splurge for a mortiser that will make this work far less tedious and painstaking.

If you've already got an arsenal of specialized tools, you probably know the importance of owning the right equipment. A mortiser may not be the most commonly used of your wood working tools, but neither is your electric log splitter, and you wouldn't trade that in to start manually chopping lumber, would you? For a couple of hundred dollars you can even buy a table-top mortiser that fits your workbench and saves you sufficient room to buy that belt sander you've been eyeing.

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