Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Chain Mortiser

This morning after coffee and the usual chores that go along with owning farm animals I felt it necessary to dig out the old timber framing tools. I have 2 students coming to start a chair class tomorrow but today we will cut mortises. I have not used these tools since 2009 when I built my shop. It is good to sense their presence again. The 16'' beam saw cuts the ends nice and square. One note about any circular saw is to use paraffin wax (clear block on the timber) on the blade and the base of the saw. It will amaze you how much smoother the saw will handle. Please don't judge me about the wedge holding the guard back but it works for me. The beam saw cuts only 6'' deep so I roll the timber to complete the cut.
 The real star of the show is the chain mortiser. This tool does one thing and does it fast. Yea, I know it would be useless without 110 volts but I do have a chair business( I think) that I have to get back to. One day I would like to try hand hewing timbers and drilling and chopping the joints by hand but sometimes I just don't have time to take the back roads so I will take the interstate. This tool from Makita has held up very well. A bit pricey but still one of the cheaper models on the market.

 I started on the long sill plate. After cutting both ends square to length I lay out the mortise for the end plate tenon. It makes things cleaner to chop an outline of the mortise before using the chain mortiser. This is an aggressive tool so hold on tight.
 It leaves a nice square hole but must be cleaned up with the mortise chisel and slick. You still have to square up the bottom of the mortise.
 Everywhere there is a joint in this frame I will bring the faces down to 7''. This allows me to use timbers that are not sawn perfect. One example is this sill plate is 3/4'' bigger on one end. It's just the nature of the saw mill, wood flexing while sawing. I use a small circular saw to kerf down to make my 7''. Then I chop away excess with my carpenter axe.
 The slick and mortise chisel make quick work to clean up the joint. I really like Barr's timber frame tools. The edges really take a beating and stay sharp.
 By the end of the day I had one 16' sill plate complete. There is a lot going on in this piece. Mortises for end sills, post, and floor joist. A good start but tomorrow I'll be back in the shop teaching and rain will set in Thursday. Much more to come.


  1. Looking good Greg. Be sure to let me know when the raising is going to take place. I would love to help if the schedule permits.

  2. Hey Greg,
    I'm suffering from extreme chain mortiser envy. In fact make that framing envy in general. I wish I could be there to lend a hand a take part. Maybe your next framing project! Keep up the good work.