A Great Deal on a Great Non-PowerMatic Mortiser
If you are interested in handsome and strong joinery you already know that mortise and tenon joints are the way to go. Yes, pocket hole joinery is all the rage, and I have three Kreg jigs myself, but when I want to build furniture that will be passed-down to my grand kids I know I'll be making mortises and dovetails.
Try as I might I was never able to get good results mortising with my Mark V. It takes a LOT of force to drive a four-sided chisel into a block of hardwood, and not only does the quill handle suffer from a size problem, but just as you make some progress the table wants to move on ya. This is not a good prize, especially because Murphy's Law dictates that you won't notice that your mortises are not as deep as you planned until some time after removing all of the mortising gear from your Mark V.
My mortiser is a PowerMatic 719, which wouldn't ya know I purchased just months before the 719T with tilting table was released. (Grumble). Before forking out the big bucks for my mortiser I researched all the tabletop units, and I just wasn't going to be able to cut the mortise depths that many of the projects I had planned would require. At the time the market was dominated by Delta, Jet and a couple questionable no-name imports.
As I mentioned in a prior post, I was at my local Woodcraft the other day and at a Rockler a couple weeks back and was amazed at the improvements that have been made in benchtop units. The one that caught my eye was the WoodRiver at Woodcraft, which as a huge base with extensions that expand to 35" in width to support for your stock. This unit has a firm fence and rollers that act as hold-ins to keep your stock firmly against the fence. The fence is made of cast iron and is adjusted with a rack and pinion that reminds me of a mini version of the fence on my Delta jointer.
One of the biggest hassles that benchtop mortisers tend to introduce is caused by very limited access to the drill chuck. The WoodRiver has two HUGE clear plastic doors that swing open for practically unhindered access. Another neat thing about this design is that because the doors are clear they allow plenty of light to make bit changes as easy as I've ever seen.
Another advantage of this unit wasn't obvious from a study of the manual: It's ambidextrous. The two access doors swing open on both the right and the left. Likewise, as you can see from the bottom photo, the lever handle can be mounted left or right. With the switchbox on the left I thought there might be a problem using it on the left, but nope, she worked just fine.
The thing that really surprised me was that it comes with a full set of four chisels and bits and the mortiser has a full 5" depth of cut! Seeing this made me curious, so I measured my PowerMatic and learned that while it has a 6" stroke, all of my chisels are 5" long!
So, if you are in the market for a great looking, reasonably priced mortiser, check the WoodRiver out at your local Woodcraft.
BTW, until Aug 27th this mortising machine is on sale for $234.99 at this link: WoodRiver Mortiser with Chisels and Bits