Hand Tools Archive

Mortise technique

Wiley Horne—So. Cal.
Hi all,

We are enjoying a long thread on mortise chisel geometry elsewhere on this page.

I would like to take a step back, and ask what we know about mortising technique from the hand tool era. After all, the working methods of the artisans in any era would inform the geometry of the tools.

So, what early accounts do we have of mortising technique. Moxon (who was not a tradesman) describes a method quite opposite to riding the bevel. He says to start at one end of the mortise, and to start 1/8” from one end, then the other, with the bevel away from you and the handle slightly toward you, to make the strike. Start from the ends and work toward the middle. In Moxon’s account, the bevel is directly bearing on the chip, with the chisel face following behind. It seems odd, especially since the chisel would be relieved in depth, and so you want the face to be leading and severing the fibers.

Does Roubo go into mortise technique? Or Nicholson?

As a speculation, if the prevailing technique were to start in the middle and make a V to depth, and then widen the V to the ends, one could imagine that penetration would be paramount, and call for long acute bevels. If the typewriter method were more common, perhaps geometry would more favor chip ejection.

Anyway, what do the ancients say? Or do they say?


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