Hand Tools Archive

Response To:
Mortise technique ()

Warren in Lancaster, PA
Joseph Moxon wrote a series of articles on the trades which were later published as two volumes. The article on Joinery is unfortunately the weakest of the set. Carpentry, Smithing, and Turning are all more comprehensive; Printing, the trade that Moxon learned in his youth, is the longest.

In the middle of Joinery are two strange sections. The first is how to true up a piece of stuff. Instead of something like 1x3 or 1x16 or 2x2 two or three feet long, like we might expect for a joiner, he describes truing up a "quarter" which is 2x4 seven feet long. Quarter is a carpentry term. The next section is mortising where Moxon describes making a mortise , again in a quarter (2x4). The mortise is one inch wide and is made on the broad surface of the timber, so there is 1 1/4 or 1 1/1/2 inches on either side.

This is not the kind of mortise we usually see in joinery work; we would want to hear how they made a mortise for a table leg or a door stile. And Moxon himself describes a mortise chisel as narrow chisel that is thicker than it is wide, not something that is an inch wide.

I believe Moxon, realizing that his Joinery article was weak, took these two sections from Carpentry, where they would be a better fit, and used them to beef up the Joinery section. He made a lame excuse why he chose to put Joinery before Carpentry, then in the carpentry section says see joinery for mortising, not acknowledging there might be a difference in approach.

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