Mortising ‘Under Glass’

Remember that Frank Klausz guy?  You know, the fella who can cut dovetails with his giant bowsaw in 3 minutes flat?

Well, he’s back at it again!  Frank was a presenter at the recent Woodworking in America conference held in Berea, Kentucky. This time, he offers viewers a unique perspective on how he can quickly and efficiently cut a mortise in a block of wood with a proper mortising chisel.

Some things you might notice about Frank’s technique:

  • He works well within the scribe lines of his mortise, only paring to them at the very end of the process
  • Even though the walls of the mortise are kind of rough looking, a mortise cut this way is just as strong as one cut with a hollow mortising machine or plunge router.  Remember, craftsmen cut millions of copies of this very joint with little mechanical help for thousands of years.
  • Notice also that he never scratched the glass…
  • Sure, this does require some skill, but Frank is using some pretty smart mallet blows to cut.  It’s not a skill that requires a long time to master or an overly gentle touch.
  • Again, a mortising chisel is the only way to achieve such results.  Bench chisels aren’t designed for this kind of application and shouldn’t be used for such work.
  • For projects that require only a few mortises, this method might be faster than dragging out and setting up a hollow chisel mortising machine.

In case you were wondering, the photographer is none other than Roy Underhill, from TV’s The Woodwright Shop.  I’m kinda surprised – I didn’t know Roy knew how to use a modern tool…

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