Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Having trouble chopping bench mortises

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  • #21337
    John Purser
    Participant

    Can wood be too soft to cut a decent mortise with Paul’s method?

    I’ve been working on my work bench since last June! One problem after another mostly caused by the steep learning curve I faced. I haven’t done much woodwork in my life that couldn’t be handled by a 22 oz framing hammer or a double bitted axe.

    So I’ve accepted the blame, learned the lesson, changed plans where necessary, started over, and kept making progress. I’m not “pleased” at all but I’m getting a lot of satisfaction if you take my meaning.

    Now, I may have hit a situation that is a little different. When I chopped my first bench leg mortise it was a disaster! I chopped another and it was nearly as bad. I tried the next leg and while the results were somewhat better and my control was definitely improving it was still something I wasn’t going to put on my bench. So I took the time to just chop mortises. In the end I had 7 mortises chopped with the last three looking quite acceptable!

    So I glued up and planed out a new set of legs, carefully did my layout, chopped a mortice, and I think my chickens could have cut a cleaner hole. The sides are too wide, the ends are bowed out, and the sides of the interior has a big hole ripped out of it. I was tearing my hair out and then I turned the leg over and compared my hole on one side to the other. One side is fairly crisp, the sides are pretty smooth, no big tear outs on the inside of the board on that side. But the other laminated board is just a disaster.

    The one that’s torn up has very wide rings and seems to be a much lighter, softer wood. There is well over 3/8 of an inch between dark rings on that board. My last practice holes that I thought were good enough were in fact in some of the hardest wood I’ve worked with. This is “whitewood” or “SPF” from the local Home Depot where the pickings are pretty slim. In straight boards I can choose between ones covered in knots or clear wood I can crease with my thumbnail they’re so soft. My last trip there I culled 80 boards (actual count) to get the 5 studs I needed for my cross pieces.

    So what do you think? Reasonable hypothesis or am I reaching WAY out there to make excuses for myself? I got my big boy pants on, I can take it.

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #21341
    Mark Armstrong
    Participant

    Wood can be challenging harder woods you can give a bit more of a thump.
    On soft pine try to be a bit gentler.
    Less is more comes to mind and you will also have more control.
    You can afford do go about a 1/64″ in front of your knife Wall chisel will compress fibers back to knife wall.
    Be patient keep practiceing get a feel for wood you are using.
    Good luck

    Dagenham, Essex, England

    #21346
    John Purser
    Participant

    1/64th of an inch??? If the bevel comes within a 1/4 inch I’m wiping out my knife wall and that’s BEFORE I pry. On this piece it compressed well over 1/4 of an inch ahead of the bevel.

    One of the lessons I learned on my practice mortise holes was to not hit too hard. I thought I had backed off fairly well but maybe I still need to hit it easier. This leg is probably ruined already so I’ll do some experimenting when I get my shop space back again.

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #21348
    Ken
    Participant

    John, if I’m reading this right, you say the bevel is next to the knife wall. You will find putting the flat back of the chisel facing the knife wall a much better way. I would watch Paul chopping out a mortice again and again.

    Sorry if I have picked this up wrong

    Ken 😉

    #21350
    Mark Armstrong
    Participant

    Think you may of miss understood me John.
    The back of the chisel gose to the knife wall just in front of knife wall by 1/64″.Once you have defined the wall you can hit chisel a little harder.
    When you lever out the waste try not to bruise the knife wall you have defined use a smaller chisel.

    Dagenham, Essex, England

    #21351
    Mark Armstrong
    Participant

    Thanks Ken you got what I was trying to say.

    Dagenham, Essex, England

    #21355
    John Purser
    Participant

    Ken and Mark, n