I need to cut 16 3/8 mortises but only have a 1/4″ chisel. Do I alternate sides during the cuts or just cut the 1/4″ and pare down from the knife wall? I suppose I should experiment on scrap. But would like an experts opinion. Thanks
No doubt about it, I would just buy a 3/8″ chisel. Simple as that. If I had only one oddball mortise, I might try chopping with one chisel and then paring, but not if it was a critical mortise and certainly not if I had 16 of them. A Narex 3/8″ chisel is about 9 USD. Around here, that’s a couple board feet of oak, so the chisel is nothing compared to the cost of your materials and 3/8″ gets a lot of use. If the project was a rush so that the chisel had to be purchased at a place like Wood Craft so that it would be much more than $9, I’d still buy the chisel.
I also agree with buying as the primary option — 3/8″ is a useful size to own, but using a 1/4″ and then paring will work fine if you’re careful. If the tenon has shoulders, that’s a bonus, as they’ll hide any tiny imperfections in the mortise. If it’s barefaced, maybe that’s another recommendation for buying the 3/8″….
Paul had a recent video about using a router plane to form the tenons on a M&T joint. In the video he uses a tenon as a guide block, first on one side, then the other. It’s applicable to your situation because he pares the mortise with the tenon piece so the mortise doesn’t have to be precise. In this way, you could use a 1/4″ chisel to make the 3/8″ mortise. I tried the technique yesterday and got the best M&T joint of my life.
Hudson Valley, NY
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