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A mortiser is a machine which basically drills square holes. The business end consists of a hollow square chisel with a drill bit down the middle. The drill bit is positioned to be just a little below the chisel so it starts the hole, and the chisel squares up the corners. My old mortiser above right is a jig attached to a 70 plus year old Craftsmen drill press. This was my dedicated mortiser for years, not as nice as Norm's but it served me well. Now I have the DELTA 14-651 Deluxe Mortiser. But for both machines, there is a fence to align the stock square with the chisel, and a hold down to "hold down" the stock when you pull the chisel out. Once your set up, it's alot of fun!

DELTA 14-651 Deluxe MortiserDELTA 14-651 Deluxe Mortiser
The DELTA 14-651 includes 1/2HP, 120VAC 60 Hz, Single phase induction motor, 3/8" Capacity chuck and key, Four mortising chisels and bits, Tool and chisel holder, Riser block, Instruction manual Ea..

DELTA 14-651 Deluxe Mortiser

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With the proper tools is easy to make snug fitting mortise and tennon joints. Accuracy in the layout and jig setup is very important of course. Take your time and make test pieces first. You'll do fine! Always chop the mortises first. Follow the directions that come with your mortiser for setup and use. I like to plunge into the ends of the mortise first, then cleanup the middle. A plunge cut will almost always be straight and true, where the next cut beside the first, will tend to drift toward the first hole.
You cut the mortise first, because it's easier to make the tennon fit the mortise! Make the cheek cut first along the width of your rails. Raise the blade only high enough to leave enough stock to fill your mortise.  You don't have to be real exact. A little deep is better than too shallow.  Set the fence for the length of the tennon. Be sure to measure to the far side of the blade. 
Next raise the blade to make the shoulder cut. This cuts the edge of the rail. Leave the fence where it is. I know, I forgot to use a gauge block clamped to the fence. Whenever you use a miter gauge and the fence at the same time you risk causing a "kick back".... Not a pleasant thing! I'll take better pics of this later to replace these.
There are a couple of ways to cut off the rest of the shoulder, in the photo above, you could simply slide the rail along the miter gauge, to nibble away at it. Or you could use a hand saw, or you can use your bandsaw with a fence and a stop block. Since I had 16 rails with four shoulders per part, i figured the band saw would be quickest. The stop block is important, it prevents the cut from going in too deep. 
I can't afford the fancy tennon jig that Norm has, but I found plans in "Shop Notes" for a jig that slides over your rip fence. Perhaps a bit more to set it up, but it works great! Depth of cut is done by moving the fence. Again, grab that sample piece and start with cutting the tennon large. After checking the fit, slowly bring the fence just a bit toward the blade. It took me three adjustments to get a perfect fit, and every tennon fit like a glove!
Perfect results can easily be achieved with a little patience laying out your stock. Take your time and remember... It's suppose to be fun!
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